GardenShare Fights Hunger in Rural North Country, NY with Community Volunteers

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This June, we’ll be featuring stories of national service programs operating in the Healthy Futures focus area. National service programs like AmeriCorps and the Volunteer Generation Fund can play a key role in promoting health within a state, from coordinating community gardening, delivering summer meals, to promoting healthy lifestyles, outdoor activities, and fitness. Learn more at nationalservice.gov/focus-areas/healthy-futures. #HealthyFutures

NEW YORK.  GardenShare is a locally-led nonprofit seeking to end hunger and strengthen food security in northern New York State, and is a recipient of the New York State Commission on National and Community Service’s Volunteer Generation Fund (VGF) grant. Gardenshare’s mission is to solve the problem of hunger in St. Lawrence County by strengthening the food system to benefit residents across the rural county.

At GardenShare-supported farmers markets, VGF-supported volunteers provide education and information to low-income consumers about the benefits of buying fresh fruits and vegetables.

In addition, GardenShare has announced its second year of offering “double dollars” at farmers markets to consumers who receive benefits from the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP). Last year, this program increased the SNAP benefit use at farmers markets by 70%, and GardenShare plans to expand this program this year to reach a larger population. This allows low-income individuals and families to purchase twice as much produce if using their SNAP benefits, and is an important step towards their mission of making fresh, healthy food available to everyone.

GardenShare’s mission and activities exemplify the Healthy Futures focus area of national service. Last year, more than 500 volunteers contributed to capacity building efforts, and provided 8,000 meals for individuals and families in rural, upstate New York.

Learn more about GardenShare and sign up to volunteer at www.gardenshare.org.

Learn more about the NY Commission on National and Community Service’s Volunteer Generation Fund (VGF) program here.

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AmeriCorps Members Promote Healthy Futures in West Virginia as Community Health Developers, Lifestyle Coaches

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This June, we’ll be featuring stories of AmeriCorps State service programs operating in the Healthy Futures focus area. AmeriCorps programs often play a key role in promoting health within a state, from coordinating community gardening, delivering summer meals, to promoting healthy lifestyles, outdoor activities, and fitness. Learn more at nationalservice.gov/focus-areas/healthy-futures. #HealthyFutures

WEST VIRGINIA. The West Virginia Community Health AmeriCorps Developer (WVCHAD) Program is an AmeriCorps State program funded through the Volunteer West Virginia state service commission and operated by the Mid-Ohio Valley Health Department (MOVHD). The mission of the department overall is to provide access to quality health care and education for core public health services, including preventive health, for citizens residing in Calhoun, Pleasants, Ritchie, Roane, Wirt and Wood Counties in West Virginia. This mission is accomplished through partnerships, collaborative relationships, community involvement, stakeholder input and guidance from a diverse Board of Health comprised of two members from each of the counties and cities served by the department.

One key way MOVHD accomplishes its mission is through AmeriCorps. WVCHAD  AmeriCorps members serve as Healthy Community Developers offering lifestyle programs including: Chronic Disease Self-Management, Diabetes Self-Management and National Diabetes Prevention Programs. These programs have proven to decrease weight, blood pressure and medications.

On top of all that, some WVCHAD AmeriCorps members focus on healthy outcomes in times of disaster! This done by assisting the state’s Medical Reserve Corps (MRC) coordinator on Emergency Preparedness presentations to local organizations, giving talks and demonstrations at health fairs and other community events on preparedness, and recruiting Medical Reserve Corps volunteers.

WV Community Health Developers serve year-round and statewide across many sites. In its fifth year, the WVCHAD AmeriCorps program is meeting critical needs in the Healthy Futures focus area.

Too many West Virginians are struggling with chronic disease. The West Virginia population as a whole is at high risk for diabetes, stroke, heart disease, cancer and early death because of physical inactivity, substance use and poor nutrition. Per America’s Health Rankings 2015 Annual Report, West Virginia ranks 47th in the nation for overall worst health determinants which are defined as the range of personal, social, economic, and environmental factors that influence our health. This report also grades West Virginia 50th in the nation for diabetes, drug deaths, heart disease, high blood pressure, and smoking and poor physical health days, 49th for obesity, and 47th for physical activity.

By leveraging the power of AmeriCorps members to serve in local communities, West Virginia is improving health outcomes one West Virginian at a time. For example, one health program offered by WVCHAD Healthy Community Developers is a walking class. One participant started out very slowly and worked her way to walk one mile, three times per week, with her AmeriCorps Lifestyle Coach. Several months later, she came to the class so excited to share, “I was able to stand long enough to cook a meal for my family for the first time in over 10 years!”

The WVCHAD program is currently recruiting for its fifth cohort of AmeriCorps members in the 2017-2018 program year! Learn more and apply today at serviceyear.org/movhd/.

Wisconsin HealthCorps: Ensuring Healthy Futures Across the State

WI Health Corps collage

This June, we’ll be featuring stories of AmeriCorps State service programs operating in the Healthy Futures focus area. AmeriCorps programs often play a key role in promoting health within a state, from coordinating community gardening, delivering summer meals, to promoting healthy lifestyles, outdoor activities, and fitness. Learn more at nationalservice.gov/focus-areas/healthy-futures. #HealthyFutures

WISCONSIN. The Wisconsin HealthCorps is an AmeriCorps State program funded through the Serve Wisconsin state service commission and run by the Wisconsin Primary Health Care Association (WPHCA) and the Wisconsin Public Health Association (WPHA). In 2010, these organizations came together to create the Wisconsin HealthCorps because they recognized the impact AmeriCorps members could have on the health outcomes of Wisconsin’s communities.

The program places individuals who are interested in public health and health care professions in community-based, health-focused organizations across the state. Each AmeriCorps member serves 1700 hours over one year, providing culturally competent health education and assistance to individuals in accessing and navigating the health care system.

The program aims to:

  • Increase access to primary health care
  • Advance evidence based community health initiatives
  • Promote health care for all regardless of race, income, gender, or age
  • Develop the next generation of health care leaders

The program’s multi-site design allows for AmeriCorps members to view the health care system through multiple lenses. Each of the program’s 22 members are placed in a variety of host sites across the state, ranging from Public Health Departments, Community Health Centers, and health-focused non-profits. This diversity in host sites provides the members with unique experiences and opportunities to help them gain a better understanding of the health care challenges facing our communities.

Whether a member is serving in a Public Health Department working to bring different stakeholders and organizations together to address community wide public health issues, or whether a member is serving in a Community Health Center assisting individual patients by connecting them to resources within the community, each member is working towards the same goal — increasing access to health care for all Wisconsinites.

Wisconsin HealthCorps AmeriCorps members give so much to the communities they serve in. The program is currently recruiting for its eighth cohort of AmeriCorps members in the 2017-2018 program year!

Learn more and apply today at wihealthcorps.wordpress.com/.

April is National Volunteer Month | Volunteer Generation Fund Makes an Impact on Hunger, Health in Iowa

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This April, in honor of National Volunteer Month, we’ll be featuring stories of how volunteers are impacting states and the ways in which state service commissions are leveraging the power of volunteers to meet critical local needs through their Volunteer Generation Fund (VGF) activities. Learn more at statecommissions.org/volunteer-generation-fund.

IOWA. The mission of Volunteer Iowa, the state service commission in the Hawkeye state, is to improve lives, strengthen communities, and foster civic engagement through service and volunteering. Volunteer Iowa administers the state’s Volunteer Generation Fund (VGF) program, providing subgrants to 5 different community organizations throughout the state who mobilize volunteers in support of state and local priorities.

One such VGF subgrantee, the United Way of Wapello County Volunteer Center in Ottumwa, has mobilized more than 100 unique volunteers in 600 hours of service to address the issues of hunger and access to healthy food in their community. The organization hosts a food pantry garden sponsored by corporations and community groups. The garden is also supported with skill-based volunteer positions including Spanish language interpreters, Master Gardeners, local engineers, and soil quality experts.

Volunteers help build and repair raised beds, till the soil, plant the produce, regularly mow, weed, pick produce, and tend bee hives. Volunteers also constructed an arbor and bench for visitors to the garden. The over 4,000 pounds of produce grown during this year, and was donated to the local food bank and meal sites. Several neighborhood-based community gardens were organized, where local residents raised their own garden produce.  Volunteers express satisfaction in getting outside and giving back, and community members benefit from healthy fresh produce.

During this time period they also hosted four gardening classes led by skill-based volunteers covering the subjects of beekeeping, starting seeds, fertilizing, and making pollinator seed bombs. The classes were free of charge and open to the public.

To learn more about Volunteer Iowa and its programs, visit volunteeriowa.org/icvs-programs.