The Utah Food Corps, an AmeriCorps VISTA grant managed by the Utah State University Center for Community Engagement, has just concluded a successful first year. Eight AmeriCorps VISTA members have completed year-long terms of service that addressed student hunger and its root causes. Service sites included Utah State University, Salt Lake Community College, Utah Valley University and Weber State University. These AmeriCorps VISTA members served a total of 7,724 students, recruited and managed 2,046 volunteers that served 10,463 hours and raised $41,620 in cash and $167,921 in in-kind donations.
The Utah Food Corps grant was awarded an additional $20,000 funding for a second year to hire an assistant manager and has added Westminster College as another AmeriCorps VISTA service site. The initiative is actively seeking additional service sites at higher education institutions across the state that will further address student food insecurity and basic needs.
“The Utah Food Corps project has demonstrated the power of collaboration between higher education institutions throughout the state to address student hunger needs, especially as the current pandemic has stressed many student support services,” said Utah State University Center for Civic Engagement director Sean Damitz.
During the past year AmeriCorps VISTA members from the Utah Food Corps have played instrumental roles in keeping student food pantries open, operating student-focused community gardens safely, securing additional resources to support student patrons, and creating COVID-19 safety protocols. At Utah State University, AmeriCorps VISTA members created an online ordering system and curbside pickup outside the University Inn for Student Nutrition Access Center (SNAC) patrons from March through August to maximize student safety.
“I feel incredibly fortunate to be a part of the Utah Food Corps team, as I have seen first-hand the incredible impact these food security efforts have had on our community, especially during these turbulent times,” ” said Utah Food Corps VISTA Leader Julie Taquin. “Now, more than ever, we see the need for expanded support systems—food pantries, community gardens, food recovery programs— and the Utah Food Corps is actively leading the way in combating student hunger across the state.”
Utah State University’s Center for Community Engagement is a Student Affairs department formed in 2013 with a mission to develop active citizens through community engagement and scholarship. More information about the Center for Community Engagement can be found at https://www.usu.edu/communityengagement/.