Americorps VISTA Spotlight: Danielle Gartner

What has been the most rewarding aspect of your work with coalitions this year? 

I have really enjoyed doing anti-hunger work during COVID-19. The pandemic has illustrated the fragility of our food systems and working to improve access to food during a time when it is particularly inaccessible has been very rewarding.

 How has your previous experience, either educational, work, life, or some combination of all of these, informed your work with coalitions? 

Although food and nutrition have always been an interest of mine, studying public health in college and contributing to public health nutrition outreach and research significantly transformed my understanding of food choices and nutrition. Working both as a nutrition educator and research assistant, I gained a strong understanding of barriers to food access and other factors that influence individual’s food choices. This work has been instrumental in my work with coalitions as it has shown me the need for an interdisciplinary approach when addressing hunger related issues.

What are you learning about the issues of hunger and poverty in your work with coalitions?

My previous hunger related work has been in Philadelphia, which greatly differs from the geographic areas I have been working in as a VISTA. I have enjoyed learning about how barriers to food access differ based on region and how capacity building can be a step toward improving food access. Coalition work is also my first exposure to capacity building and it has been interesting to see how impactful collaboration among various sectors can be.

What are you learning about institutions and individuals working to alleviate hunger and poverty in your regions? 

 I had no idea so much anti-hunger work was already being done in Bastrop County. Learning about the work with summer meals for students there has been inspiring. The Hays County/San Marcos coalition has also been an eager group of individuals  meeting and addresing hunger in their region. Working with the their steering committee has illustrated the potential impact that collaboration can have in a region.

 What is a “Big Idea” you have that you would like to see implemented by coalitions to address hunger and poverty in your regions? 

 I would love to see all coalitions incorporate community voices in their work. No one understands hunger better than individuals who have experienced it first-hand, and including these voices would be an excellent way to improve the community’s understanding of hunger and poverty.


Danielle Gartner is an Americorps VISTA working in BCHP’s Austin Regional Office.


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