Food and Faith is a blog of the Presbyterian Hunger Program.
Federal food assistance programs, particularly WIC and SNAP, have the ability to carve out spaces in which individuals can be empowered... The increased buying power that SNAP offers low-income families and individuals is a tool they can use to take control of their diet. WIC, even with the restrictions, is yet another tool. These resources, along with other resources such as budgeting and nutrition education, provide a space in which individuals have authority over what they eat and how they use their personal resources. And this authority, this control over their being, gives spaces for empowerment.
Four full-time national service participants, Arianna King, Jonathan Krigger, Laura Stricklen, and Rachel Brunner started work this week for the Presbyterian Hunger Program (PCUSA) as part of a nationwide program to fight hunger, the National Anti-Hunger and Empowerment Corps.
Their service began on February 13 after top federal and local officials joined with nonprofit groups in Boston to swear-in the 31 members of the new national team, an AmeriCorps VISTA project which will help nonprofit organizations in 18 states, at nearly 30 sites, fight hunger, increase the amount of healthy, locally-grown food, and help to empower more low-income individuals and families to achieve long-term financial security.
For the next eleven months, Brunner, King, Krigger and Stricklen will assist congregations and organizations in Louisville and around the country more effectively connect low-income individuals and communities to government nutrition programs, such as SNAP and WIC, and to healthy, locally sourced foods.
The program is being led by the New York City Coalition Against Hunger (NYCCAH) and is funded by the USDA and the Corporation for National and Community Service (CNCS) with additional support from non-governmental sources. This unique public-private partnership is aimed at reducing the hunger and food insecurity faced by 50 million Americans.
“In this nation of plenty, it is unacceptable that millions of children still go to bed not knowing if there will be food for their next meal,” said Senator Tom Harkin (D-IA), Chairman of the Appropriations subcommittee that funds AmeriCorps and a senior member of the subcommittee that funds the USDA. “The Anti-Hunger and Opportunity Corps is a win-win - it will play an important role in the fight against hunger, while helping young people build leadership skills and pay off school debt.”
“Increasing access to nutrition assistance for our most vulnerable populations is a top priority of the Obama Administration,” said USDA Undersecretary for Food, Nutrition and Consumer Services Concannon. “We are committed to working with our partners at the federal, state and local level, as together we help millions of families in need.”
“For more than 46 years, VISTA has been in communities working to improve the lives of millions of the most vulnerable Americans,” said Paul Davis, Acting Director of AmeriCorps VISTA. “This cross-agency collaboration with USDA will prove instrumental in helping individuals and families get on the path to economic stability and build stronger communities.”
“We are excited to host Arianna, Jonathan, Laura and Rachel, who will be working with congregations and communities to strengthen their witness of Christ in the world,” says Presbyterian Hunger Program staffer, Andrew Kang Bartlett. “Over decades, the Presbyterian Church USA has carried out ministries of compassion, helping to alleviate hunger, as well as ministries of justice to help Presbyterians understand and address the root causes of hunger. The VISTA workers extend the work of the Presbyterian Hunger Program to help build the capacity of local churches and groups to create healthy, just food systems in the U.S.”
“The AmeriCorps VISTA program is a perfect tool to fight hunger and improve nutrition,” said NYCCAH’s Joel Berg. “We are grateful that this new public-private partnership will cost-effectively aid the ability of grassroots nonprofit groups in 18 states to increase their capacity to enable eligible families to access the federal nutrition assistance benefits that they need to avoid hunger and improve their diets. We are extraordinarily grateful to the Obama Administration and to local officials around the country for this tremendous federal and local support.”
The Corporation for National and Community Service is a federal agency that engages more than five million Americans in service through its Senior Corps, AmeriCorps, and Learn and Serve America programs, and leads President Obama's national call to service initiative, United We Serve. For more information, visit NationalService.gov. AmeriCorps VISTA (Volunteers in Service to America) taps the skills, talents, and passion of more than 7,000 Americans annually to support community efforts to overcome poverty. AmeriCorps VISTA members are assigned full-time for one year at nonprofit community organizations with the goal of building the organizational, administrative, and financial capacity of programs that provide low-income Americans with the skills and resources needed to break the cycle of poverty.