Summer of Service - Part III
To help demonstrate the impact service and service members have, ServiceNation’s ServceNext Initiative launched ‘Stories of Service,’ a summer-long series that captures first-person accounts from service members currently deployed across the country.
In the series’ final post, Shayla Price talks about what she learned about her experience as a summer VISTA. If you missed it, be sure to check out Shayla’s first post about why she wanted to spend her summer serving and her second blog post about the challenges of ensuring kids have enough to eat during the summer.
As a new school year starts, children facing hunger will benefit from meals served in school cafeterias. When kids are in school, they have access to breakfast and lunch through federal programs: the School Breakfast Program and the National School Lunch Program.
During the 2009-2010 school year, 20 million children received free or reduced-price lunches through the National School Lunch Program. But what happens to hungry kids during the weekends? While serving as a summer AmeriCorps VISTA, I learned that some children arrive home to empty refrigerators and pantries.
Feeding America’s BackPack Program is helping to fill this important void. For more than 15 years, the program has provided children with nutritious, easy-to-prepare food for the weekends. Today, more than 150 food banks are distributing backpacks filled with food to nearly 230,000 children every year.
In Kansas City, the food bank Harvesters offers the BackSnack Program. Harvesters provides the food and the backpacks, and a corporate, civic or religious organization provides volunteers to fill the backpacks with food. Schools distribute the backpacks on Friday to students who return them on Monday to start the process again.
As a VISTA team member, I was assigned to recruit new community partner agencies for Harvesters’ BackSnack Program. Community partners adopt schools and clean, pack and deliver backpacks every week during the school year. I engaged in conversations with local businesses, nonprofits and churches to encourage them to help end childhood hunger.
While reflecting back on my summer of service, I can describe it as a jam-packed experience. From performing compliance inspections at Kids Cafés to educating the public about SNAP (the food stamp program), I played an integral role in strengthening the community.
I even had the opportunity to sharpen my skills. The VISTA team attended the Bridge the Gap Conference in Topeka, Kansas. We learned the importance of building healthy relationships and understanding the culture of those we serve.
My VISTA term centered on expanding programs to bring individuals and communities out of poverty. I gained first-hand knowledge about hunger issues. I learned how a food bank acquires and distributes meals to more than 66,000 different people each week. More importantly, I developed the patience to be an effective leader.
National service is the catalyst to creating community solutions. Whether serving as a Volunteer Louisiana commissioner or as an AmeriCorps VISTA member, I believe every American has the skills and talents to give.
To learn how you can help end hunger, visit feedingamerica.org. In addition, if you are interested in joining the front lines against poverty, apply to become an AmeriCorps VISTA today.
R. Price is an attorney and an advocate for ending childhood hunger. She has promoted community service as a governor-appointed commissioner for Volunteer Louisiana. Prior to government service, Price worked as a marketing director for ProgressiveU.org, a social welfare organization that sought to give high school and college students a voice.
While in high school, she earned more than $100,000 in college scholarships. She authored the book titled “The Scholarship Search: A Guide to Winning Free Money for College and More.” She has been featured in several publications, including “Better Homes & Gardens,” “Seventeen,” and “Black Enterprise.” Price was also named one of EBONY magazine’s 2009 Young Leaders and received the first-ever Emerging Greatness Award.