SVHC Member Story: A Mutually Beneficial Arrangement

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The Health Trust Food Basket

jessicaDeciding to apply for AmeriCorps was a straightforward decision for me. I yearned to be helping people who have problems accessing food. I wanted to learn more about urban farming, garden based education, and food systems in general. I didn’t realize how much I would learn about myself and my career goals through my work though. While I realize I am helping the community, I can’t help but feel like I’ve been helped more from just playing a larger role in it.

I started my term very unsure of what my position entailed. It was not laid out in a traditional sense. I like to think we built my position as we went along and it was a unique experience because I got to have a say in what my job consisted of and what it didn’t. Some of my responsibilities included maintaining the garden, assisting with the Ryan White grocery pick up days, and setting up and supervising the morning Meals on Wheels pack out.

Jessica member story photo 1There have been so many amazing projects I got to be a part of, on my site and the other HealthCorps sites. One of my favorite experiences has been improving the garden at the Food Basket and taking care of it, using it as a teaching tool, and introducing a worm composting bin. I also worked with a local garden company to try to set up a larger composting project for us here, and while it has not been a success yet, it has taught me a lot about planning and working with members of another organization to try to get something done. Another experience I will never forget was helping with an after school garden club with another healthcorps member. It gave me experience working directly with kids, which was new to me.

Some of my most treasured experiences were through our trainings. My favorite was when I attended The Hunger Action Summit at Santa Clara University. I watched speakers from Second Harvest Food Bank and other organizations who are working to help people gain access to food. Meeting and talking with people who are passionate about helping those who are low income or homeless, get help, was extremely inspiring. I would even go so far as to say that it’s one of the main reasons I decided I want to go into public health as a career. Another memorable experience was working with LifeLab at UC Santa Cruz. Though I will probably not go into garden based education as a career, it’s still something that interests me and the work they are doing there is so creative and really awesome. I’ve also thoroughly enjoyed our trainings at Veggielution, Alba Organics and Collective Roots, where we learned more about gardening and farming and actually got to get our hands dirty!

This year has been such an important growing year for me, and I think a lot of it came from being in the AmeriCorps program. My position here at the Food Basket has enabled me to take initiative and take on a leadership role in a way that I haven’t experienced at other jobs. From learning how to lead the Meals on Wheels pack out line, to building our garden area, to working with the community to organize food drives and composting projects, to helping teach children through garden based education, to preparing samples and doing lives demonstrations during our monthly Simply Healthy food demos. It’s been a fantastic learning experience. I like to think I’ve had a very well rounded experience this year and I’ve learned so many great skills that I will be able to use for the rest of my career.