Take action - help GardenShare keep AmeriCorps VISTA volunteers

Take action - help GardenShare keep AmeriCorps VISTA volunteers

GardenShare has had a full-time AmeriCorps VISTA position for the last year. These volunteers commit to a year of service and receive a small living stipend for this commitment. GardenShare’s volunteers have come through Hunger Free America’s Anti-Hunger Opportunity Corps (AHOC). AHOC absorbs most of the administrative work and costs, making it possible for a small organization like GardenShare to have one of these full-time positions.

Unfortunately, we have recently learned that this program will be discontinued late next year. GardenShare’s current volunteer will be with us until the end of August, but there will not be funding for another position after that time.

The AHOC AmeriCorps VISTA is funded mostly by USDA Food and Nutrition Service (FNS), with the educational awards funded by the federal Corporation for National and Community Service (CNCS). Matching funds for staff time and VISTA trainings have been provided by the Walmart Foundation, and remaining matching funds coming from host sites, including GardenShare.

Hunger Free America has raised with USDA and CNCS the possibility of them reversing their decision, but it seems unlikely that will happen without outside pressure. Hunger Free America has issued an open invite to USDA to visit any sites in the nation at any time to see the good work being accomplished. They have also asked private funders if they can step up to fund more of this, but that’s a long shot.

What you can do to help - ask for re-consideration this decision by contacting Secretary of Agriculture Perdue, and/or your two U.S. Senators and one U.S. House Representative. Here is the contact information:

The Honorable Sonny Perdue
US Department of Agriculture
1400 Independence Ave., S.W.
Washington, DC 20250

The Honorable Chuck Schumer
100 South Clinton Street, Room 841
Syracuse, NY 13261
Phone: (315) 423-5471
Fax: (315) 423-5185

The Honorable Kirsten Gillibrand
US Senate
PO Box 273
Lowville, NY 13367
Tel. (315) 376-6118
Fax (315) 376-6118

The Honorable Elise Stefanik
Member of Congress
88 Public Square Suite A
Watertown, NY 13601
Phone: (315) 782-3150
Fax: (315) 782-1291

Key points to make in your communication:
• Your connection to the issue – volunteer, concerned donor, or other relationship.
• The challenges faced in rural and remote communities like St. Lawrence County. Go here for some facts and figures.
• The difference AmeriCorps VISTA’s make to GardenShare – volunteer recruitment, farmers market promotion, SNAP outreach, and summer food for children.
• Encourage them to re-consider this decision and restore funding to AHOC or find another way to support rural and remote agencies like GardenShare.

As background, you may find it helpful to review this op-ed Joel Berg from Hunger Free America wrote on why conservatives should love AmeriCorps: http://thehill.com/blogs/pundits-blog/economy-budget/324731-why-americor...

(Keep in mind that our VISTAs themselves cannot be involved in any way in any of this lobbying/persuasion, nor can anyone else do so on government-funded time.)