Rebecca, age 22.
Host site: Clark County Food Bank in Vancouver, WA
"Before moving here for this position, I worked as a dietary aide at a nursing home in Massachusetts. This was my plan for the year, but after working there for a week or two, I realized it wasn’t something I wanted to do. I wanted to work specifically in food and nutrition. My searches on Google and LinkedIn weren’t yielding the results I wanted. Fortunately, I remembered about the AmeriCorps program. I’d served before, about two years ago, during the summer between my sophomore and junior year of college, and the experience was an influential period in my life. I was excited when I found the position at the Clark County Food Bank. I’ve always been passionate about nutrition since I was in high school—as a runner and athlete, I learned early on how food is fuel and can influence performance.
Not only is the work we’re doing at Clark County Food Bank necessary to address the community’s needs, but I’m also gaining valuable experience in community nutrition, which will help me in my goal to become a registered dietitian. I love to interact with the racially and ethnically diverse community members we’re serving. It’s rewarding. As a person of color myself, I know it’s critical to have diversity and equity at the forefront of everything we’re doing, especially with so many systemic issues and policies in our country that are exclusionary. It’s important to be inclusive and mindful about the communities we’re serving and their needs. As a nutrition educator, I’m learning about developing, planning, and implementing culturally relevant nutrition classes for our community members. I love it—our site coordinator allows us to be flexible and creative with the cooking lessons we’re planning.
I’ve enjoyed it so far. You get to experience new things, meet new people, and grow in the field. Service allows for self-growth and reflection."
Sophie, age 27.
Host site: Byrd Barr Place in Seattle, WA
"I had walked by Byrd Barr Place every day for years on my way to work at the Seattle International Film Festival. When COVID hit, I was laid off from my job of two years. COVID helped catalyze a decision point in my life—I originally wanted to apply to graduate school for film studies, but I now had the time and space to reevaluate what I wanted to do with my life to be more involved in the community and to help make a change. Between the Black Lives Matter movement and COVID, I wanted to channel my emotions into tangible actions. What can I do to be the person I want to be in this world?
I reached out to Byrd Barr Place about volunteering, and when the AmeriCorps position opened up, I was encouraged to apply. Serving with AmeriCorps has allowed me to see the bigger picture about the impact we’re having on the community. Even on harder days, after talking with the clients, I feel better. They’re my absolute favorite part of the position, and I love helping them as they shop for food at the food bank.
I’ve also helped to establish a partnership with the Burke Museum to include art and educational activities into the weekend meal kits for youth experiencing food insecurity as part of the Backpack Brigade program. I’ve also reached out to local art supply stores to gather donations. Artist & Craftsman Supply recently donated 100 watercolor sets to include the youth backpacks.
It’s been cool to work on the ground. I also feel lucky to meet new people – I feel engaged in my community in a way that I wasn’t before. This experience has pushed me to question and evolve things that I took for granted. Counseling and helping people are something I’ve thought about before as a career path, but it felt very distant. COVID changed this. I applied to and recently was accepted to graduate school, not for film studies, but for social work!
Serving with AmeriCorps has been a growing experience. I’m so glad to have the opportunity to do this. I’m inspired by the team and learning so much from them."
Henry, age 24.
Host site: Clark County Food Bank in Vancouver, WA
"Before moving to the Pacific Northwest, I worked a desk job at an executive search firm in Washington, D.C. I had studied business in school, and going into finance or consulting was the traditional path, so that's what I did. But when COVID hit, I wanted to have a more direct impact on communities in need. Since I have a passion for sustainable agriculture, I searched for opportunities in renewable energy or food systems. The pandemic heightened my interest in working for an organization that was directly and immediately helping people. Working on a farm and food bank was a good match because it provided tangible, hands-on work experience.
I've always loved the outdoors. Growing up, we had a garden at our house and my grandparents' house. But here, instead of planting a few carrots in the backyard, I'm learning about planting miles of carrots. I'm happiest when I can go outside and be with the dirt, watching the food grow and knowing that it will help keep our community fed.
AmeriCorps' built-in mentorship and support systems are a great way to foster my passion in the broader realm of sustainability. This is a transition period for me, and service has provided real-world experience and helped me think critically about what I want to do after my time at Clark County Food Bank."