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National AmeriCorps Anti-Hunger Program
The National Anti-Hunger and Opportunity Corps (AHOC) is a 48-member AmeriCorps VISTA program, sponsored by the New York City Coalition Against Hunger (NYCCAH) and generously funded by a public-private partnership comprised of the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), the Corporation for National and Community Service (CNCS), the WalMart Foundation and Trinity Church Wall Street. The main focus is to fight hunger and improve nutrition, primarily by increasing participation in the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP, formerly known as Food Stamps), thereby expanding economic opportunity and ensuring healthy futures for Americans. The VISTA members will also serve to increase the capacity of anti-hunger community organizations to provide comprehensive benefit assistance and outreach to low-income constituents, particularly to seniors, working families, and Latino populations.
Partner organizations have reported the severe under-utilization of SNAP and other USDA programs. Increasing participation in such programs is a top CNCS and USDA priority area, therefore much of the program's work will focus on outreach for SNAP, The Emergency Food Access Program (TEFAP) and the Summer Food Service Program (SFSP), which provides summer meals to children.
Click here to check out their blog with updates of the 46 VISTAs involved in the program regularly posted.
All partner organizations are serving high-poverty communities in 18 states including:
Little Rock, Arkansas (AR) Theodore/Mobile, Alabama (AL) Phoenix, Arizona (AZ) Los Angeles and the San Francisco Bay Area, California (CA) Denver, Colorado (CO) District of Columbia (DC) Miami, Florida (FL) Chicago, Illinois (IL) Louisville, Kentucky (KY) New Orleans, Louisiana (LA) Portland, Maine (ME) Baltimore, Maryland (MD) Hatfield, Massachusetts (MA) Buffalo, Mineola and Rochester, New York (NY) Raleigh, North Carolina (NC) Philadelphia, Pennsylvania (PA) Dallas and Waco, Texas (TX) Salt Lake City, Utah (UT)
View NYCCAH's National VISTA Program in a larger map
1. Convene community leaders and members - including community and faith-based organizations and local public sector officials - to identify USDA program participation barriers and develop a comprehensive plan to increase participation in their communities. This will include facilitating meetings between State agencies, non-profit and public sector organizations to help them collaborate and participate on Benefits Access Plans. Members will build systems to conduct training and target outreach for community and faith-based organizations to disseminate information about USDA programs. 2. Recruit, manage, and train unpaid community volunteers to conduct screening and application assistance and to develop local, culturally competent USDA program outreach and application assistance materials and related training to community-based organizations. 3. Identify and apply for non-federal sources of funds that can be combined to improve benefits access assistance and outreach activities and leverage federal, state and local dollars to support these sites' anti-hunger efforts. Members will create strategies and case for support to develop ongoing, collaborative, and more sustainable financial base to build the capacity of community-based organizations involved in outreach and related program activities. 4. Increase access to nutritious food options by expanding outreach and programming to increase utilization of benefits at farmers markets and supporting local, community gardening and agriculture and nutrition education efforts.
The AHOC members will have recruited and managed over 2,100 volunteers who will in turn perform over 18,000 hours of service at pantries, kitchens, and food banks. They will also provide technical assistance and support to agencies to enable them to increase participation in the SNAP program, as well as to increase participation in SFSP.
Given that poverty and hunger are so vast -- and that there are more than 200 food banks and more than 40,000 food pantries and soup kitchens in the U.S., this AmeriCorps*VISTA program provides an excellent model for replication. Another outcome is the production of a best practices guide on utilizing national service in reducing hunger in America.
Careful planning of this program has ensured that each site will be carrying out unfilled needs, neither duplicating existing work nor displacing ongoing efforts.