SACRAMENTO – As Hunger Action Month kicks off, California Volunteers, Office of the Governor today announced the deployment of 47 full-time AmeriCorps VISTA (Volunteers in Service to America) members to more than 21 critical food banks and five volunteer centers across the state to meet the continued need caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.
“At the start of the pandemic, food banks across the state experienced up to six times the normal demand as volunteer availability dwindled under stay-at-home orders to combat COVID-19,” said California Chief Service Officer Josh Fryday. “As we continue to see the compounding effects of COVID-19, we need dedicated members in the community working directly with the food banks to build greater capacity and ensure vulnerable Californians are fed.”
Twenty-eight AmeriCorps VISTA members were deployed this week, in addition to 19 deployed last month. By October, up to 60 AmeriCorps VISTA members will be assisting food banks and volunteer centers across the state. The deployment builds on the Governor’s early action to stabilize strained food banks with personnel and logistical support. As part of the largest AmeriCorps VISTA project in California related to the COVID-19 response, members will address immediate volunteer needs and develop a long-term sustainable strategy to address food insecurity beyond the pandemic.
“The pandemic has created a hunger crisis for far too many in this country — a crisis that demands we take action,” said Desiree Tucker-Sorini, director of AmeriCorps VISTA. “In communities across the country, Americans have extended a hand to those in need — stranger helping stranger, neighbor helping neighbor. This new project will build upon that energy to develop long-term innovative solutions to an unprecedented need. That’s the power of AmeriCorps VISTA.”
The deployment of AmeriCorps VISTA members is funded in part by the Corporation for National and Community Service with $1.3 million in member support and $370,000 in Segal AmeriCorps Education Awards. After completing a full term of service, the AmeriCorps VISTA members will receive an award that they can use to pay for college or to pay off student loans. The state has also invested $130,000 for this project.
“Right now, 10 million Californians don’t know when or how they will next eat, with greater rates of hunger and uncertainty amongst our Latinx and other communities of color. We are incredibly grateful to California Volunteers for stepping in to provide critical workforce support for our food banks since the start of the pandemic — first with the Cal Guard and now with AmeriCorps VISTA and #CaliforniansForAll members. This support has been vital to ensuring that food banks are able to continue to meet this unprecedented demand for food,” said Stacia Hill Levenfeld, CEO of the California Association of Food Banks. “Food banks know that high levels of hunger will persist long after the wildfires are put out and the pandemic ends, and remain steadfast in their commitment to feed our communities through this crisis and as we rebuild.”
“Volunteers will be critical to the success of this effort,” said Fryday. “Without them, sustaining a long-term strategy is not possible. Since June, 70,000 volunteers have served nearly 300,000 hours to support food banks. We need to build from that commitment and are calling on Californians to sign up to volunteer with #CaliforniansForAll. The pandemic has created an overwhelming need, and to meet the moment we need to be just as overwhelming in our volunteer response.”
Californians interested in supporting the effort to sustain food banks through the pandemic are encouraged to sign up to be a #CaliforniansForAll member. More information can be found at CaliforniansForAll.ca.gov