For Immediate Release
August 9, 2021
Contact: Julie Goggins, firstname.lastname@example.org, (916) 201-2304
Operation Feed California AmeriCorps VISTA service term ends
AmeriCorps VISTA members served to support long-term sustainable food bank volunteer strategies throughout the pandemic
SACRAMENTO —California Volunteers, Office of the Governor celebrated the service of 39 full-time AmeriCorps members in the VISTA (Volunteers in Service to America) program serving at more than 20 critical food banks and five volunteer centers across the state. As a part of Operation Feed California, AmeriCorps members served a year-long term at partner host sites to help meet the increased demand for food caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.
California Volunteers developed the AmeriCorps VISTA program to help address shortfalls in volunteer capacity as stay at home orders were in effect. Members primarily served to develop sustainable strategies for volunteer recruitment and retention at food banks and pantries across the State. AmeriCorps members began their service with host sites in August 2020.
Between August 2020 through May 2021, AmeriCorps members:
- recruited 8,349 community volunteers who served over 26,000 volunteer hours,
- managed 26,000 community volunteers who served over 125,500 volunteer hours,
- provided 46 organizations with capacity building support,
- developed digital and print resources to manage volunteers,
- conducted outreach and education campaigns for hard-to-reach communities,
- and forged new partnerships with local organizations supporting food insecurity efforts
“The California Volunteers VISTA program and members have made a vital impact on the food banks, volunteer centers, and communities they have served throughout this pandemic,” said Chief Service Officer Josh Fryday. “From organizing volunteer events with community members to developing new digital tools for volunteer management, we are grateful to all the members who answered Governor Newsom’s call to serve during an unprecedented year and stepped up to be part of the solution to unite Californians while we remained physically apart.”
In April 2020, Governor Gavin Newsom responded to the increase in food demand by launching Operation Feed California, a groundbreaking collaboration between state agencies, nonprofits, and individuals to create a statewide volunteer network to support food banks and pantries working to feed vulnerable Californians during the pandemic. The services AmeriCorps VISTA members provided remains a vital component of the initiative as members helped to address new strategies to recruit and retain volunteers. Operation Feed California has quickly become a statewide blueprint for action, changing the culture of how to activate volunteers in response to crisis.
In addition to supporting California’s communities, AmeriCorps members were able to develop critical professional and job skills. Multiple members were offered staff positions from host sites at which they served, exemplifying the value of service programming as a pathway to full-time employment.
The deployment of AmeriCorps members was funded in part by AmeriCorps, with $1.3 million in member support and $370,000 in Segal AmeriCorps Education Awards. After completing a full term of service, the AmeriCorps members will receive an award they can use to pay for college or to pay off student loans. The state has also invested $130,000 for this program. Due to the pilot program’s success, California Volunteers has applied for continuation funding through AmeriCorps. More information on the program’s second year will be available in the fall.
“At a time when so many individuals and families are facing challenges to access good, quality food, AmeriCorps is a critical link in addressing food insecurity,” said Meg Ansara, Director, AmeriCorps VISTA. “AmeriCorps members in VISTA are the catalysts helping organizations strengthen the capacity of communities, reaching more Californians in need and ensuring those individuals and families receive food that’s filling and adequate to live, work, and thrive.”
As COVID-19 continues to impact our communities and service members end their deployment supporting food banks, California Volunteers urges those interested in supporting food insecurity efforts to join Operation Feed California.
Led by California Chief Service Officer Josh Fryday, California Volunteers, Office of the Governor empowers Californians to take action to improve their communities. #CaliforniansForAll is a California Volunteers service initiative launched in response to COVID-19 to establish a volunteer corps to support the state’s response to emergencies and disasters.