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 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. 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’s VISTA works with The Health Trust’s Meals on Wheels program as a Resource Coordinator. The VISTA is responsible for volunteer coordination and management by creating better volunteer training curricula, training Meals on Wheels volunteers, and creating a Train-the-Trainer model for volunteer leaders and staff. The VISTA also works to improve current client outreach systems used to link clients to Meals on Wheels services. The VISTA supports work to build a better client outreach plan and will pilot the plan among health fairs and among community events. Additionally, the VISTA is in charge of creating new tracking systems to track new clients that are CalFresh beneficiaries and those who are in need of additional services.
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 as the Veggielution Volunteer Coordinator at Emma Prusch Park Farm. The VISTA works to strengthen the current system for recruiting and engaging residents in surrounding low-income areas to serve as volunteers and leaders to help with workday activities such as construction, planting, weeding, composting, and harvesting at the farm. Additionally, the VISTA is responsible for managing new volunteers by developing volunteer training curricula and orientation tools for Veggielution’s Sponsored Group Workday Program and for general farm workdays. The VISTA will build a Train-the-Trainer model by recruiting and training volunteer leaders confident and skilled at facilitating future orientations for new volunteers.
Melissa Renteria, The Health Trust – Meals on Wheels
My name is Melissa Renteria and I am a recent graduate from the University of California, Merced with a Bachelor of Arts in Sociology and with a minor in Public Health. During my time at UC Merced I was
a founding member of the Public Health Society, was an undergraduate research assistant in several public health projects, and was a sister of Kappa Kappa Gamma. As I got closer to graduation and entering the “real world” also known as post grad life, I begin to list the possible routes I may pursue. Such decisions include applying to graduate school, finding a job, or moving back home. However, none of these options provided me with the satisfaction of improving the health of an individual, group, community or the world in some aspect. Luckily, this is how I stumbled upon SVHC VISTA.
I am excited to be a SVHC VISTA for the opportunity to grow, broaden my horizons, and for the benefit of helping the public. Ultimately, serving being a SVHC VISTA will help not only my own future but also the future of others, which will be the utmost reward for me. Aside from being a SVHC VISTA some of my interest include enjoying a nice cup of coffee, binge watching TV shows, crafting, running, and traveling!
Coleen Ju, Second Harvest Food Bank
My name is Coleen Ju and I am a recent graduate from UC Berkeley where I got my B.S. in Conservation and Resource Studies. Over the course of my time at Cal, I geared my studies around the issues regarding agriculture, food access and community health. As such, I have developed a strong passion for public health and community nutrition. While serving at Second Harvest Food Bank, I hope to gain a better understanding of how to solve some of the institutionalized problems concerning community health. I believe this next year will be invaluable, and I trust that the great deals of direct and in-direct service to Santa Clara County communities will only strengthen my passion for serving others.
In my free time I enjoy baking, DIY projects and spending quality time with family and friends. Aside from my passion in public health, I am also deeply interested in sustainable agriculture and one day hope to open a small farm of my own. Although this is not my first time living in the Bay Area, it is my first time living in Santa Clara County so I am very excited to get a lay of the land and eventually feel like a local! I am sincerely excited for all the new experiences this year will surely bring, as well as the inspiring people I am sure to meet.
Erin Havens, Garden to Table
My name is Erin, and I will be the Harvest/Outreach Manager with Garden To Table. I recently graduated from UC Berkeley, where I studied Society & Environment and Peace & Conflict Studies. I love to study and learn abroad, and most recently returned from a semester in Ghana where I studied agriculture. In my free time, I love gardening, hiking, and baking.
At UC Berkeley I developed a passion for sustainable agriculture and food system change. In one of my courses, I did a project that mapped the availability of produce and sweetened beverages along a popular bus route, and saw that income levels correlated with access to produce and sweetened beverages. This project made me aware of the injustices that occurred in my own neighborhood, and further inspired me to work in the area of food justice and its intersection with health. I am excited to be a SVHC VISTA to be able use what I learned in previous coursework and projects to contribute to a healthier local food system. I can’t wait to learn more about the food system through an organization and community passionate about these same issues.
Dana Shinners, Veggielution
My name is Dana Shinners and I was born and raised in Madison, Wisconsin. As a part of the food justice community there, I worked with local nonprofits to teach youth about agriculture and cooking healthy foods. After graduating from University of Wisconsin with a degree in Community and Nonprofit Leadership, my passion for connecting communities around growing food led me to San Jose, CA and Veggielution.
As a SVHC VISTA, I will be focusing my capacity-building efforts on Volunteer Workday and Sponsored Workday programs, as well as strengthening outreach initiatives in East San Jose. My commitment to the influence of nature and cultivating food in urban spaces will lead me to graduate school for urban design in the future.
Shreya Condamoor, La Mesa Verde
I recently graduated from UC Berkeley with a degree in biology. While in college, I became interested in understanding health care in disadvantaged communities and the field of preventative medicine after working in a chemical detoxification free clinic in Berkeley. Thus, after graduation, I wanted to join an Americorps project, which addresses health issues in underserved communities. I joined a project, which focuses on improving health through simply providing people with more nutritious foods.
I am the Volunteer Network Coordinator for the La Mesa Verde Network through Sacred Heart Community Service. La Mesa Verde is a community of urban gardeners that creates access to healthy food in San Jose. We invest in the community by providing families with all the materials necessary for their own raised garden beds, including a yearlong introductory course on sustainable, organic gardening. La Mesa Verde enables families to plant year round, thus transforming our local food system. My VISTA position allows me to recruit families to our community of gardeners, meet with the families one-on-one to determine a plan for their garden and coordinate the construction of two raised beds and the planting of vegetables in their backyards. In order to make the project self-sustainable in the future, I also run the Recruitment and Build.