With support from the Corporation for National and Community Service, The Health Trust launched a 3-year VISTA grant in July 2015 at 5 partner sites. The project was expanded to 7 members for the 2016-17 year. Each VISTA member will build capacity at their sites in order to increase the site organizations’ effectiveness in reaching those in need and increasing access to healthy foods in low-income areas. Specifically, members will develop and/or improve internal systems, such as volunteer training and management, client outreach, fundraising, and data tracking.
History: The VISTA grant, which focuses on building organizations’ capacity to end poverty, builds on the foundation created by The Health Trust’s former 6-year Silicon Valley Health Corps (SVHC) AmeriCorps grant. Over 140 members conducted direct service, hands-on work at over 10 sites to build multiple community and school gardens and reach thousands of residents with nutrition education. In total, Americorps members donated and sold over 452,638 pounds and 53, 164 pounds, respectively, of local produce to low-income families from 2012 to 2015. That is the equivalent of 13 tractor trailer loads of food! Please watch the video below to learn more about SVHC.
The SVHC VISTA grant aims to accomplish the following targets for the 2016-2017 year across all partner sites in order to increase access to healthy, affordable food in low-income communities continue service to at least 600 individuals, and increase the number of individuals receiving food and reporting increased food security for themselves and their children (280 surveys).
- At least 805 new staff and community volunteers will receive training to build capacity at their sites;
- At least 15 new systems and/or business processes and/or enhancements will be put into place;
- At least 2,425 new and 600 continuing beneficiaries will receive services in obesity prevention and health access;
- At least 280 will report an increase in food security; and
- VISTAs will receive ongoing professional development opportunities and training through their year of service
Garden to Table is a local non-profit with the mission to create a sustainable local food system that builds community, improves access to healthy food, and teaches residents how to cultivate their own fruits and vegetables. Garden to Table’s VISTA serves as the Harvest/Outreach Manager. The VISTA works to improve existing outreach methods to recruit regular volunteers and fruit picking leaders to help with the 1 acre farm and lead fruit-harvesting programs. Additionally, the VISTA refines and develops a local aggregation and distribution model for healthy food distribution in underserved areas. The VISTA helps to create a sustainable volunteer network at Garden to Table by improving outreach methods to recruit more volunteers and fruit picking leaders as part of a Train-the-Trainer model for their fruit gleaning program. The VISTA is also responsible for engaging and identifying a network of homeowners to develop a system for connecting gleaned fruit to food banks and Good. To Go. healthy food outlets in target neighborhoods of Santa Clara County.
Sacred Heart Community Services is a non-denominational, non-profit organization that provides integrated services on site, free of charge, to all in need. The VISTA member works specifically with Sacred Heart’s La Mesa Verde program (LMV) as a Volunteer Network Coordinator. La Mesa Verde’s goal is to improve healthy eating and well-being of low-income families and increase self-sufficiency through home-organic vegetable gardens. The VISTA works to improve volunteer retention and volunteer coordination systems for La Mesa Verde by improving volunteer training curricula and training volunteers to implement LMV’s first year gardening course. Additionally, the VISTA helps to improve existing outreach methods to recruit more volunteers and beneficiaries for the program by creating a mapping process to identify more clients and developing more effective communication procedures through in-person outreach, email newsletters, and social media. The VISTA continually works to create a sustainable network of organizational support for the LMV program by leveraging relationships with community organizations, supporting grassroot fundraising efforts, and soliciting in kind donations.
Second Harvest Food Bank (SHFB) of Santa Clara and San Mateo Counties is a trusted leader dedicated to ending local hunger. Second Harvest Food Bank’s VISTA serves as a Volunteer and Resource Coordinator. SHFB will host 2 VISTA members: the first member will grow the Produce Mobile program and evaluate and respond to the client experience of the Family Harvest and Brown Bag Program, while the second member will expand the number of school districts and schools providing free breakfast and summer feeding programs to low-income students and conduct outreach.
The VISTA is responsible for strengthening the current volunteer and support network for the Produce Mobile program, which distributes produce to over 3,000 clients in underserved areas of Santa Clara County. The VISTA assesses current sites and develops ongoing best practices to alleviate drop-off among Produce Mobile site participation. The VISTA also works to improve current outreach strategies to recruit more Produce Mobile volunteers, food bank beneficiaries, and leaders for the Community Ambassadors program. The VISTA builds capacity by cultivating relationships with community organizations to serve as outreach partners, refines tracking systems to track new Produce Mobile clients, develops volunteer training curricula, and trains volunteers for the Produce Mobile and Community Ambassadors programs.
The Health Trust is an operating foundation founded in 1996. Since then, it has been a catalyst for community partnerships that identify health challenges and work together to find innovative solutions. The Health Trust provides grants, engages in policy and education and continues its legacy of providing health services to make Silicon Valley healthier for everyone. The Health Trust will also host 2 VISTA members: one member will work at the Food Basket to recruit, train, and retain volunteers to sustain the food distribution program; the other member will expand infrastructure to provide food assistance to more homeless individuals and low-income seniors.
Veggielution seeks to create equity between people and the environment in San Jose by bringing sustainable urban farming to the community. Veggielution’s VISTA serves to strengthen the current system for engaging East San Jose (ESJ) residents to serve as community leaders and organizers and enhance East San Jose resident participation in Saturday community programming at Veggielution, including the Farm Stand, community cooking classes, nutrition education in the Youth Garden, and periodic community partnership events.