Second Harvest to take part in new national food insecurity project

Credit: Bill Lackey

Credit: Bill Lackey

Second Harvest Food Bank of Clark, Champaign and Logan Counties is one of nine food banks statewide to take part in a new national pilot program focused on combating food insecurity during COVID-19.

Ohio was one of four states selected by the Corporation for National and Community Service to take part in the COVID-19 Food Security Critical Response Project.

The Ohio Association of Foodbanks is now seeking 25 full-time AmeriCorps Volunteers in Service to America (VISTA) employees for one year and will serve nine food banks across the state.

“We are thrilled that these new resources will help our foodbanks sustain and expand their impact on the issue of hunger, especially in light of the increased rates of food insecurity due to the pandemic,” Joree Novotny, director of external affairs for the Ohio Association of Foodbanks, said.

Five of the AmeriCorps VISTA employees will serve Second Harvest. Other employees will work at food banks in Akron, Cincinnati, Cleveland, Columbus, Dayton, Logan, Lorain and Toledo.

Employees will complete a “variety of activities,” Tyra Jackson, executive director of Second Harvest, said.

Demand for Second Harvest’s services has escalated significantly since the COVID-19 pandemic began in March. Jackson said weekly costs are up about $15,000 from this time last year.

In March, the Ohio National Guard stepped in to help fill some holes at Second Harvest, with guards distributing, packaging and transporting food to residents.

However, even with help from the National Guard, the food bank is still struggling to keep up. Jackson said previously Second Harvest has seen a 66% increase in need between 2019 and 2020 and she anticipated needing to raise more $500,000 to keep up with demand.

This is why the food banks AmeriCorps VISTA employees year-long term will focus on activities like supporting fundraising efforts, developing marketing materials and strategies and supporting the launch or expansion of programs serving particularly vulnerable populations hit hard by COVID-19 and the related economic fallout.

“We’ve been proud of the way our community has helped us respond during the early stages of this crisis,” Jackson said. “This is a wonderful and much-needed opportunity to build our organization’s capacity to continue to respond efficiently and effectively in the months and years to come."

In return for their service, employees will receive “a modest living stipend and an end-of-service Education Award to help pay for college tuition or student loans. Additionally, members receive valuable professional work experience and have the option to work or attend school part-time while completing their service terms,” according to AmeriCorps website.

“Now, in this time of such significant need, individuals looking for entry-level positions, for a career transition, or for a way to give back in retirement can do so as part of a national pilot that is sure to have lasting impacts on the fight against hunger, poverty and inequity,” Novotny said.

Applications for the five positions can be found on Second Harvest’s website and are being accepted until Oct. 5.

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