Americorps VISTA

Reflections on our MLK Day of Service

Martin Luther King, Jr. Day gave the VISTAs at the Food Shuttle the opportunity to get out from our desks and explore some of the other programs our organization offers. The two of us chose to volunteer for a Backpack Buddies event at Marbles Kids Museum in downtown Raleigh. Backpack Buddies provides food for low-income children for the weekends when they're not getting breakfast and lunch from school. Having never worked with the program, we were both amazed at the work that goes into setting up Backpack Buddies stations. Two entire pallets of food, from canned tuna to granola bars, were brought in to pack 360 backpacks for kids. The best part of the day was interacting with all the kids packing bags. It was adorable to see how proud they were to be helping others in the community. Little toddlers and pre-teens were all excited to go down the assembly line and get stickers proclaiming their good deeds. Parents were getting just as into the process, continuing to stuff bags after their kids had gone off to another activity.


It was really fun to work with a different Food Shuttle program and volunteer base. While we are both winding down our terms of service, volunteering with Backpack Buddies revitalized our love for our organization and the many ways it impacts the community. To learn more about IFFS's many programs, visit our website!



Jennifer and MTM fruit game

Jennifer Ozkurt:

AmeriCorps Summer VISTA

Jennifer worked primarily with IFFS's new Mobile Tastiness Machine Food Truck.  This food truck serves lunches and dinners to low-income children right in their own neighborhoods in order to fill the gap that free and reduced price breakfast and lunches at school miss.  Jennifer worked to develop materials and curricula that will be used as a nutrition component along with the meals handed out at the food truck.  Jennifer also helped as the Nutrition Instructor in a Cooking Matters Teen Class.


Megan Dixon:

AmeriCorps Summer VISTA

Megan worked with IFFS's Cooking Matters Program to help coordinate courses and manage volunteers.  Megan's duties also included assisting with the Food Matters Program at Mobile Markets, participating as an instructor for Cooking Matters courses, and developing activities to be used with all of IFFS's Nutrition Education Programs.

Thank you both for your dedication and hard work this summer! 

Introducing: Sarah Burch

by Sarah Burch I started at the Inter Faith Food Shuttle two weeks ago, taking over from Morgan Medders as the new Americorps VISTA. It quickly became apparent that things don’t stay the same for long around here! Case in point – I found out yesterday that the name of my program has changed. Good bye “Shopping Matters.” Hello “Cooking Matters at the Store!”

I am thrilled to be a part of such a dynamic work environment.  Even though at times I’ve felt like one of those characters in a movie who moves in slow motion while the rest of the world rushes past her.  I have scrambled to keep up with all that’s going on around me, plumbing the depths of our coolers and warehouse in search of ingredients, heading out to Wendell to assist at a Cooking Matters class, attending mobile markets in Benson and Durham to recruit participants for upcoming grocery tours, and finally running my first Shopping Matters, sorry, Cooking Matters at the Store tour from start to finish.

What has struck me the most over the past two weeks is how much food connects us all. Food connects us at the hub. We raid the warehouse for cans of corn, beans and tomatoes we can use in our cooking classes. Food connects us to our community. We reach out to those agencies and organizations that can benefit from our programs, and who share our mission of feeding the hungry. Last but not least, food connects us with the people we are trying to help. The most rewarding part of my job so far has without doubt been leading a grocery shopping tour in Durham: sharing nutritional advice with participants, reading a food label together, identifying whole grains and looking at unit prices. We even shared recipes. One participant had made a coating for fish with nuts and breadcrumbs. Doesn’t that sound good? And today my co-worker shared how everyone signed her instructor guide at the graduation class for her Cooking Matters course. See what I mean? Food connects us all. I can’t wait for what’s ahead of me this year, but please, don’t change the name again!

I can't believe it's already been a year!

by Morgan Medders Sadly, this week marks the last of my yearlong term of service as an Americorps VISTA with the Inter-Faith Food Shuttle (IFFS).  It has truly been a wonderful experience.  The IFFS staff and volunteers never cease to amaze me.  Even as they’ve grown to become my “IFFS family,” I am still impressed on a daily basis by their diligence, compassion, and constant enthusiasm.  These people are some of the greatest I know.

The fact that it took me several weeks of working here full-time to get a grasp on what everyone does is a testament to the breadth of innovative strategies IFFS is using to combat hunger in North Carolina.  Even though my world has mainly revolved around our nutrition programs, I can’t help but be proud of our other programs as well:  from Backpack Buddies to field gleaning to the Culinary Job Training Program to urban agriculture and the Young Farmer Training Program to food stabilization and Catering with a Cause.

Something that stands out to me, as I look back over the course of the year, is change.  And while at first these changes may seem like inconveniences, or perhaps even weaknesses, I’d argue quite the opposite.  Ending hunger will not be accomplished while being stagnant.  While the tons of food we redistribute each year are critical to local families who are struggling to put meals on the table, that alone is not going to solve the problem.  The Food Shuttle gets this.  We all will have to work together to create a just, sustainable, accessible, and healthful food system here in NC.  Not only do the IFFS programs already attack a myriad of different causes and symptoms of hunger, new visions are continually being put into action.  One such vision in action, the IFFS "Mobile Tastiness Machine" which is shown below.


As people become more aware of where their food comes from, how to shop for and cook a healthy well-balanced meal no matter their budget, and find alternative ways to access nutritious foods, they feel empowered.  I’ve seen it firsthand in our nutrition classes.  I’ve felt it myself.  It’s exciting to be able to grasp the power of nutritious food that comes from the earth to feed our families.  This is nothing new, but unfortunately it’s been complicated by our current food system.

Over the past couple weeks, I have been asked several times what my favorite part of working with IFFS this year has been.  As my typical indecisive self, I have had trouble coming up with an answer.  Apart from the amazing people whom I mentioned above (and the shenanigans in the nutrition HUB), I think it would have to be the appreciation from community members.  It’s not expressed at every encounter, but there have been countless times when someone has pulled me aside,  in various classes, markets and events, to express gratitude for the work being done for the community.  And there hasn’t been a CJTP graduation ceremony yet that I haven’t gotten teary eyed during the graduates’ stories, which always include some form of appreciation.  The mission of IFFS is important, and the work is often fun, but it would be meaningless without the community supporting and appreciating it.

There is a long way to go yet, but boy am I excited to be a part of the journey.

As long as I’m in the area, I hope to continue to volunteer with the Inter-Faith Food Shuttle.  Hopefully I will see you soon in a class or event or out in the field.  Regardless, please be in touch:

I've inserted pictures of some of my other favorite memories from my time here at the Food Shuttle.

CM pizza

Making pizza during a Cooking Matters for Kids class.  (One of the children wrote on his end of class survey, "P.S. I want to be a chef when I grow up.")

office schenanigans

Office Shenanigans for my birthday.

Nutrition trivia

A VERY competitive game of Cooking Matters trivia.

flowers teaching farm

BEAUTIFUL gifts of fresh produce and flowers from the Inter-Faith Food Shuttle Teaching Farm.