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Thursday, May 17, 2018

MAYOR WALSH ANNOUNCES AMERICORPS VISTA MEMBERS TO BUILD CAPACITY IN CLOSING FOOD ACCESS GAPS IN BOSTON

MAYOR WALSH ANNOUNCES AMERICORPS VISTA MEMBERS TO BUILD CAPACITY IN CLOSING FOOD ACCESS GAPS IN BOSTON

BOSTON - Thursday, May 17, 2018 - Today, Mayor Martin J. Walsh announced the Mayor’s Office of Food Access (OFA) and Project Bread have been selected to receive two AmeriCorps VISTA (Volunteers in Service to America) service members to close food access gaps in the City of Boston and surrounding communities. Applications to become the OFA VISTA service member are due June 1.

"No one should have to live with food insecurity," said Mayor Walsh. "With the help of the VISTA service members, the Mayor's Office of Food Access and Project Bread will build on existing programs and policies to create greater opportunities for children and families to access healthy and nutritious food year round."

Beginning this summer, the AmeriCorps VISTA service members will work with OFA and Project Bread to serve low-income communities and communities of color in Boston, Malden, Everett, and Medford that are disproportionately impacted by food insecurity, with a special emphasis on serving children and families. With the support of the AmeriCorps VISTA service members, OFA and Project Bread are expected to reach at least 1,200 individuals through their services.

"Many individuals and families today experience food insecurity on a daily basis," said Mayor's Office of Health and Human Services Chief, Marty Martinez. “Through OFA, the VISTA service members, and Project Bread, we will take new bold approaches to close food gaps further, so every individual and family can have an opportunity to be healthy and thrive."

The two VISTAs will work with OFA and Project Bread to identify areas where new summer and afterschool meal sites will fill a food access gap. The OFA AmeriCorps VISTA service members will work with Boston Public Schools (BPS), Boston Public Library (BPL), and Boston Centers for Youth & Families (BCYF) to coordinate summer and afterschool meal programs, new and existing summer meals sites at BPL branches; and manage afterschool meals at all BCYF community centers.

The OFA AmeriCorps VISTA, leveraging the expertise of Project Bread, will also pilot “SNAP application clinics.” The VISTA work in SNAP clinics will help to develop a system where residents can be reached and supported throughout the SNAP application process.

“Identifying gaps and finding opportunities to fill them is an important role that our office plays in addressing food insecurity and food access issues in Boston. We look forward to bringing these VISTA members on board to help us do just that. Our community partners know and work intimately with the communities they serve and are well suited to provide more summer and afterschool meals to children and to help close the SNAP gap in their communities. The VISTA members will help to leverage the strengths that all of these partners bring to the table to yield a meaningful impact on the food security of families across Boston,” said Catalina López-Ospina, Director of the Mayor's Office of Food Access.

“At Project Bread, we promote the success of anti-hunger programs such as SNAP, school breakfast, and summer meals as scalable solutions to food insecurity. These programs have an immediate impact on the children and families who don't have enough to eat. Hunger is a solvable problem, yet its solutions are complex and require an all-hands-on-deck approach,” said Erin McAleer, President of Project Bread. “The City of Boston has demonstrated great commitment to preventing and ending hunger, and we look forward to collaborating with them to advance our shared goal of making sure everyone in Boston and throughout the Commonwealth have equal access to this basic right - food. By partnering with OFA and the VISTA program, we look forward to expanding our capacity and using our many years of experience to enhance these vital programs for the residents of Greater Boston and beyond.”

“This program will help us ensure that students are learning healthy eating habits that will last them a lifetime,” said Laura Benavidez, BPS Executive Director of Food and Nutrition Services. “We look forward to this collaboration with Project Bread and the AmeriCorps VISTA program, as we continue working to close the food access gaps for BPS students and their families.”

Project Bread’s AmeriCorps VISTA service members will work with school wellness committees and other relevant partners to advocate for improved access to and quality of child nutrition programs hosted or sponsored by schools, including summer and afterschool meal programs and breakfast and lunch programs.

In addition to these activities, both AmeriCorps VISTAs will develop a meal program toolkit highlighting best practices for creation and management of sites. These toolkits will help organizations build solid operational systems to restart the programs seamlessly each season and will synthesize best practices around outreach and advocacy with school wellness committees to ensure that future sites effectively reach and meet the needs of the community.

“Boston Public Library is proud to collaborate with like-minded service organizations and expand summer meal sites in the city’s neighborhoods to the Codman Square, East Boston, and Grove Hall library branches this year, and additionally share library resources with children and families,” said Boston Public Library President David Leonard. “Basic needs have to be met to ensure users can take full advantage of all our library spaces, collections, and programming.”

"Boston Centers for Youth & Families is looking forward to partnering with OFA to provide much-needed nutrition resources for the young people and families who attend our centers,” said William Morales, Commissioner of BCYF. “This new partnership will provide families with free, nutritious meals allowing us to further our goal of improving our families overall health and happiness."


ABOUT THE MAYOR’S OFFICE OF FOOD ACCESS:
Created by Mayor Walsh, the Mayor’s Office of Food Access works to improve equitable access to nutritious food to foster a more food secure city with vibrant, inclusive food cultures, reflective of the diverse residents in the City of Boston.

Last summer OFA in partnership with The Mayor's Office of New Urban Mechanics, Boston Public Schools, Project Bread, and Mattapan Food and Fitness Coalition piloted Lunch on the Lawn at City Hall Plaza and Books and Bites at the Mattapan Branch of the Boston Public Library. These two new locations combined serve more than 3,000 meals to young people 18 or under during the summer, filling the school meals gap. This year OFA is strengthening partnerships and expanding to more BPL branches, farmers markets, and public facilities.

ABOUT PROJECT BREAD:
Project Bread is committed to preventing and ending hunger in Massachusetts. We approach hunger as a complex problem with multiple solutions; we provide immediate access to affordable, healthy food to those who are hungry today, while also eradicating the systemic causes of hunger. Through its Child Nutrition Outreach Program operated in collaboration with the Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary education, Project Bread assists communities across Massachusetts to provide high-quality free summer meals to children and teens at over 1,000 sites across the state, including nearly 200 in the city of Boston.

Along with other sources, the funds raised through The Walk for Hunger™, celebrating its 50th anniversary in May 2018, enable Project Bread to pioneer innovative initiatives and support effective programs to end hunger in Boston and throughout Massachusetts. For more information on Project Bread visit www.projectbread.org and to learn more about the Walk for Hunger™ visit www.projectbread.org/walk.

ABOUT THE AmeriCorps VISTA PROGRAM:

VISTA, Volunteers in Service to America, was conceived by President John F. Kennedy as a domestic counterpart to the Peace Corps and was started by President Lyndon Johnson as part of the War on Poverty. It is the national service program that works to eliminate poverty. The first VISTAs began serving in 1965, in migrant farm worker camps in California, the hollows of eastern Kentucky, and the urban neighborhoods of Hartford, CT. In 1994, VISTA was incorporated into the AmeriCorps network of programs. Today, AmeriCorps VISTA is a full-time national service program for individuals interested in developing lasting solutions to the problems of poverty in the United States.  AmeriCorps VISTA members create and expand services and programs that help bring low-income individuals out of poverty.

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