Mission moments are stories we share with each other to inform, inspire and motivate. Sometimes it is hard to remember exactly why we are here… Mission Moments remind us all just how lucky we are to be able to do this important work.
It has been an honor to serve alongside the staff at the Inter-Faith Food Shuttle as an AmeriCorps member. I want to tell you how this experience has changed me. I joined AmeriCorps for the wrong reasons- I wanted to use it as a turning point in my career. I was headed towards a career in education and wanted to get back into the nutrition field. I wasn’t really all that familiar with hunger and all of its complexities. I didn’t know much about nonprofits and wasn’t sure how I would feel about going into low-income communities to teach nutrition and food skills. The position did help get to the next step in my career - I am now studying dietetics at Meredith College and plan to graduate this May. But this service has changed my life in an unexpected way. I now have a different perspective on food, hunger, politics, and people.
Early into my service I got to sit down with my supervisor and pick her brain about the Food Shuttle and its mission and she explained what pioneering innovative trans-formative solutions to ending hunger means and the "Feed Teach Grow" strategy. I got two years to learn about why hunger happens and how we can respond to it. Now I feel responsible for giving back to my community because of the Inter-Faith Food Shuttle. Nutrition was my focus, but now I know that is is about more than eating - it is about making healthy food accessible to everyone in a dignified way. Dietary recommendations should be more than just what you eat, but also consider the person, their lifestyle, and connecting people to healthy food. The Food Shuttle has likely changed the trajectory of my career. I will have a hard time leaving it.
One of my favorite memories was during a Train the Trainer session. We invited a volunteer, Paul, to co-facilitate the training session for new volunteers. Paul had this light in his eyes that I will never forget as he talked about the Food Shuttle and how it has given him a purpose in life now that he is semi-retired. He shared stories from his experiences during Cooking Matters classes. The new volunteers mirrored his enthusiasm and were eager to get started with the program.
There is definitely community at the Food Shuttle, but not only among staff but among volunteers too. I see volunteers meet each other for the first time and then continue to work together on other classes. One of the strengths that Cooking Matters brings to the Food Shuttle is that volunteers can’t just show up to a class and lead it. They have to come prepared, read the lesson in advance and have a plan. It gives them an avenue for creativity and to make use of their talents.
The Food Shuttle has an excellent reputation in the community. Working directly with volunteers, I got to hear their stories: why they got involved with the Food Shuttle and how amazing they think that the organization is. Hearing those stories made me want to do better- to make sure that everyone that walks through these doors has an experience that lives up to that reputation and expectation. Even though I was only an AmeriCorps, if I did my job correctly and thoroughly I could help do that.
So thank you for being a place for me to be fed with community, where I was taught by mentors, and challenged to grow personally and professionally with an experience that will stay with me for the rest of my life.