As their time with us winds down, we sat down with three of our AmeriCorps VISTAs, Eirann, Sarah, and Emily to reflect on their service year with us.
What brought you to CKP?
Eirann: I was interested in and involved with sustainable food and anti-hunger initiatives throughout college. I realized the tremendous potential that college students have in shaping and influence the anti-hunger movement and I was eager to take a VISTA position with CKP so that I could continue to be a force in the movement, even beyond my college years. I was excited to immerse myself even deeper in the cause and learn more about the non-profit sector, while using my past experiences to influence change.
Sarah: After working as a client manager at a corporate insurance firm, I was searching for a position where I could transition into the non-profit sphere and focus on food justice issues. I have lived in the Chicago area for 15 years, so I was excited to be able to learn more about and serve my own community.
Emily: After I finished my Undergraduate degree I knew I wanted to have some job experience under my belt before starting graduate school. As I was applying for jobs I knew that I wanted to be part of an organization whose missions were aligned with my own. Once I came across the opening at Campus Kitchens I immediately applied, knowing that this would be a good fit.
Where are you headed next?
Eirann: Next year I’ll be living in Paris, obtaining a graduate degree in French through Middlebury College.
Sarah: Either pursue a graduate degree in food policy or move on to another anti-hunger non-profit.
Emily: I’m heading to Europe for a backpacking trip and then applying to jobs in the public sector.
How has CKP impacted your future career?
Eirann: I hope to one day do translation work for a non-profit or NGO in the environmental sector. My time spent with CKP has given me a valuable look into the non-profit world and has provided numerous opportunities to network in the field.
Sarah: Working with CKP in a VISTA capacity has served as a “non-profit boot camp” year for me. I have gained skills in developing and implementing new programs, recruiting and managing volunteers, and researching and creating community resources. It has been an incredibly dynamic experience that has reinforced my career path of working with anti-hunger groups.
Emily: I’m sure that the work I have completed with CKP has influenced me in ways beyond my recognition. CKP has solidified my passion for working with the public in ways that impact their health and wellbeing.
What has been your favorite part of working with CKP?
Eirann: It’s been inspiring to see all of the different angles from which CKP and CKP’s partner institutions combat hunger. By researching the various tactics and strategies that different organizations use, I’ve been able to learn a lot about crafting campaigns and initiatives, and I’ve been able to understand various aspects of the anti-hunger movement in a much deeper manner.
Sarah: My favorite part has been helping our student leadership team to broaden their perspective beyond campus and identify strengths and needs in our community. I have really enjoyed working with them to recruit volunteers and implement nutrition education programs.
Emily: My favorite part of working for CKP has been all the opportunities to meet individuals who have like-minded interests and new perspectives.
What has been the biggest challenge?
Eirann: Trying to facilitate communication between the entire Campus Kitchen VISTA network and finding ways to work together while not in the same location. Also, creating an open channel to share resources throughout the network and not duplicate efforts.
Sarah: The hardest part of my VISTA year was my inability to pilot our new Healthy Living for Families curriculum. While I didn’t find a site that worked for the program, I am very proud of the resources we developed and am excited to leave the new cohort of VISTAs well-equipped to continue our work.
Emily: Doing multiple projects at once!
What projects or curricula have you worked on?
Eirann: I wrote a guide for Campus Kitchens which addresses how they can work with community farmers markets to accept SNAP benefits. I have also compiled a food donation and food use best practice guide, with an accompanying cookbook. Additionally, I worked on writing a new culinary based nutrition education curriculum targeted at families, with Sarah Benedict, the VISTA at CKNU.
Sarah: My two main focuses this year were on nutrition education and SNAP outreach. I personally developed new nutrition education resources for elementary and middle school youth and collaborate on a new program for families with the VISTA in DC. I analyzed the results of our annual client agency survey to develop SNAP and SNAP E&T resources tailored to the needs of their clients.
Emily: I have worked on various projects that address topics, including garden education, SNAP education, nutrition education, volunteer management, volunteer training, volunteer recruitment, updating technologies/practices, management of interns, trainings/orientations, and creating guides.
What was the most surprising part?
Eirann: It is truly impressive that CKP has such an enormous impact despite having so few staff members. This speaks not only to the talented staff’s immense passion for their work, but also to the tremendous power that the students have in affection local and national change. While this isn’t necessarily a surprise, it is still a happy revelation!
Sarah: The biggest surprise, and one of my favorite aspects, has been the connectivity of the national staff. While there are only two individuals in our office at CKNU, weekly check in calls and regular communication with CKP staff and VISTAs in DC, Boston, and Milwaukee have helped to foster collaborative projects and root our work in a broader context.
Emily: Never a dull day at the office!
Interested in joining AmeriCorps? Learn more here.