What has been the most rewarding aspect of your work with coalitions this year?
Working alongside our versatile AmeriCorps VISTA Cohort and observing them blossom as they build out their regional service projects while building and strengthening Hunger Free Community Coalitions. My favorite memories have been cultivating connections with fellow AmeriCorps VISTA members throughout my service and utilizing every opportunity to collaborate with community leaders.
How has your previous experience, either educational, work, life, or some combination of all of these, informed your work with coalitions?
My experience prior to AmeriCorps VISTA service involved working and living within a nonprofit housing cooperative focused on housing affordability for students. I learned important lessons about cooperative governance and leadership, which contributes significantly to my ongoing Hunger Free Communities Coalition work and AmeriCorps VISTA service.
What are you learning about the issues of hunger and poverty in your work with coalitions?
In addition to working with coalitions, I have been learning alongside our phenomenal AmeriCorps VISTA cohort about the intersections of hunger and poverty along with the importance of basic needs security. Throughout my service I continue to learn about how the root causes of hunger are embedded in civics, economic inequality, and systemic racial inequities that permeate our industrial food system.
What are you learning about institutions and individuals working to alleviate hunger and poverty in your regions?
There is a big shift happening in the conversations revolving around hunger and poverty on all levels. On an institutional level, there has been emphasis on the importance to ensure leadership structures accurately reflect local demographics, humanize data, center existing community organizing efforts, implement anti-racist practices, and prioritize the lived experience of individual community members.
What is a “Big Idea” you have that you would like to see implemented by coalitions to address hunger and poverty in your regions?
It is vital to drastically restructure relationships with every level of the food system while strengthening community-led strategies to eliminate the intersectional roots of hunger and poverty on all levels including federal, state, and local.
The collective concept of food sovereignty developed by the organization Via Campesina founded by indigenous people in Central and South America is vital. Food sovereignty is a process in action that involves reclaiming land and aquatic resources, prioritizing small-scale regenerative farming practices, and enforcing food as a right to the people for long-term systemic change.