In observance of AmeriCorps Week 2017, March 4th-11th, Tri Cycle Farms honors the important roles service corps members from AmeriCorps VISTA, Arkansas GardenCorps, and FoodCorps play in local nonprofits and schools. Tri Cycle Farms hosts VISTAs and GardenCorps members, and through our food recovery and garden volunteering programs, we work with VISTAs, GardenCorps, and FoodCorps members from other local organizations and schools. From educating schoolkids about healthy eating, to growing healthy food for our neighbors in need, to building capacity so that our nonprofits can succeed, service corps members fulfill need in our community every day. Thank you, service members!
Profiles of service corps members will be added throughout AmeriCorps Week. Check this post throughout the week for new profiles every day!
Founded in 1965 as a national service program to fight poverty in America, VISTA (Volunteers In Service To America) engages 8,000 Americans annually as VISTAs to support community efforts to overcome poverty. Members make a year-long, full-time commitment to serve on a specific project at a nonprofit organization or public agency. They focus their efforts to build the organizational, administrative, and financial capacity of organizations that fight illiteracy, improve health services, foster economic development, and otherwise assist low-income communities.
Arkansas GardenCorps is an AmeriCorps program hosted by the Childhood Obesity Prevention Research Program at the Arkansas Children’s Hospital Research Institute in Little Rock, Arkansas. The mission of Arkansas GardenCorps is to promote the use of school and community gardens to provide nutrition education with the purpose of reducing childhood obesity and to increase environmental awareness and sustainable agriculture practices in Arkansas communities. Members assist Service Sites across the state of Arkansas with the following objectives:
- Development and maintenance of school and community gardens
- Garden-based nutrition education for youth and adults
- Recruitment of volunteers to support sustainability of gardens
- Increase access to fresh produce grown in gardens
FoodCorps places motivated leaders in limited-resource communities for a year of public service. Working under the direction of local partner organizations, they implement a three-ingredient recipe for healthy kids. The service members:
- Teach kids about what healthy food is and where it comes from
- Build and tend school gardens
- Bring high-quality local food into public school cafeterias
Profile in Service: Kyndal Saverse
Service Description: AmeriCorps VISTA, Resources Data Manager, Tri Cycle Farms, Fayetteville, Arkansas
Previous Service: Arkansas GardenCorps, Tri Cycle Farms, 2015-2016
Hometown: Clarksville, Arkansas
"My current service year has taught me the importance of building relationships with my co-workers, the volunteers, and the community that we serve. Sometimes just a couple words to a stranger at the store is all it takes to get someone involved with good work. I hope to continue bringing people together, so we can easily create a healthier, more vibrant community.
Service means to give without wanting anything in return. Service comes from a place of compassion for others, no matter where their walk in life.
Developing Salesforce will be a huge contribution to the way my organization collects and organizes data. For the success of non-profits, data is vital to prove yourself for grants and donations. The number of volunteers and the amount of food recovered has grown immensely. Tracking this data proves our worth to the Fayetteville community.
Tri Cycle Farms directly serves hundreds of volunteers, as well as other food banks such as 7Hills and Salvation Army. In many ways we have a trickle down effect by helping others to help the community they already serve."
Thank you, Kyndal, for your service!
Profile in Service: Moriah Santiago
Service Description: FoodCorps, George Elementary, Springdale, Arkansas
Hometown: Long Island, New York
"Serving with FoodCorps has been my greatest accomplishment and most valuable experience of my life. To serve in our incredible community of Springdale and work towards making sure our George Elementary Family has access to healthy food and nutrition education is important and valuable work. Our students love the garden so much and we will continue to work on fostering this love of gardening, science, and environmental stewardship!
Through serving with FoodCorps at George Elementary, I discovered my love of teaching. I am privileged to teach the students about environmental science, gardening, and nutrition, which has encouraged me to pursue my masters in secondary education in life sciences at the University of Arkansas next year! I am looking forward to continued service in Springdale and ground down further in the connections I’ve built in the community over the past year and a half.
Service means connecting my community to the resources we need to thrive. It means being a facilitator of learning, connecter of people who ought to know each other, a grant writer, a gatherer of resources, an idea generator, an event planner, an ally, and a friend to my community.
My service position serves 640 students, plus their families which counts for well over 1,000 people. I am so grateful that our George Elementary family is able to benefit from Tri Cycle Farms Food Recovery. Since I have been recovering the food from Whole Foods that Tri Cycle facilitates, our school has been getting over 50 lbs of food two times a week, bi-weekly. This is incredibly helpful to our students who are in need of extra food over the weekend and receive snack packs. We have been able to send our students in need home with bags of fresh fruit, organic breads, yogurt, and other wholesome non-perishables. Any extra food we have is used in lessons, or given as snacks to after school clubs. This is really making a difference in our students lives."
Thank you, Moriah, for connecting children to healthy food and teaching them about food systems!
Profiles in Service: Meg Staires
Service Description: Arkansas GardenCorps, Tri Cycle Farms, Fayetteville, Arkansas
Hometown: Avant, Oklahoma
“Service is about standing with communities as they identify and address issues; it’s about supporting folks as they build solutions that will bring about long-lasting and positive change.
This year is providing me with the time I need to ponder and solidify my future goals. It’s a great thing to be able to take a step back and think about what my next step should be, and it’s rewarding to be able to do that while doing meaningful service and learning tons of valuable things about the community I live in.
I’m so grateful for the opportunity to work with such a great AmeriCorps team here at Tri Cycle Farms. There’s nothing better than working towards goals with inspired and inspiring people!”
Thank you, Meg, for your service!
Profiles in Service: Noa Borkan
Service Description: FoodCorps, Hellstern Middle School, Springdale, Arkansas (2 years)
Hometown: Sharon, MA
“These 2 service years have given me hands-on experiences teaching nutrition and understanding how kids feel and interact with their food and school food. In the fall I will be attending UNC-Chapel Hill in the Masters in Public Health program with a focus on dietetics. Serving in FoodCorps not only gave me the experience and focus to get into this program but also the drive and desire to further my education and commit to a career in dietetics. Getting to be part of FoodCorps and AmeriCorps means that I have such a dynamic role at my school and the opportunity to really learn about school food, students’ preferences and attitudes towards food and be able to implement many different programs at the school to work on students’ nutrition. I have been able to work with kids closely and be part of so many different amazing experiences at the school: working in the garden, implementing harvest of the month, and running a farm-to-school camp. Enjoying my work and seeing its value has pushed me to want to make this my career and expand my education to learn more about effective nutrition programs and gain the skills to make a broader difference in school food.
I grew up in Israel where army service or national service is mandatory but when I moved to the US I was exempt from the army and committed to going to an American college instead. Still, I always felt that service was incredibly important in order to get to live in the US and be a contributing member of society if I was privileged enough to have opportunity to do so. Being a part of national service was always incredibly important to me but the community aspect of service is the part that most stands out now that I am a service member. Service means that I get to engage in the community in so many different ways and fill the gaps that the community needs; if there is a project at the school or in the district that needs help I am there to help out. I am there to elevate the school’s garden and nutrition-based programs but also I am there to give the school the extra boost it needs.
The food recovery program at Tri Cycle has helped us tremendously by providing us with ingredients to cook with and pushing us to be creative in cooking lessons. I was leading a cooking class with sixth graders and had gotten chickpeas, chocolate, and peanut butter from food recovery so we tried out a chickpea cookie dough recipe which students really enjoyed!
So many things happen each day! Today I was out in our greenhouse during recess working with my 6th grade garden team on starts we are growing. It is amazing how much they have taken on the project as their own and really taken charge every step of the way: they collected cans, painted them, filled them with soil, planted seeds, and are now watering everything and watching it grow. My favorite moments are when I am working on something and turn around to find the girls fixing a problem or figuring out the next step on their own.”
Thank you, Noa, for your service!
Profiles in Service: Sarah Heizenroth
Service Description: AmeriCorps VISTA, Apple Seeds, Fayetteville, Arkansas
Prior Service: I served with a State & National program called Keep Austin Housed. My placement was with Lifeworks in their Supportive Housing Program where I case managed 18-24 year olds experiencing homelessness. It was an 11-month term 09/15-07/16 in Austin, TX.
Hometown: Malvern, PA
“I am passionate about promoting social justice, economic opportunity, sustainable development, and healthy lifestyles. I am particularly interested in how many of the barriers that occur in our communities can be directly related to our food and food systems. My goal is to do work that promotes community development through increasing awareness and access to local foods.
Tri Cycle was a great help to us in the off season winter months when we were trying to build the Farm to Table program by testing new recipes. They generously allowed us to participate in their food recovery program which gave us access to ingredients that we could otherwise not afford during that time.
Apple Seeds serves thousands of students from schools and community centers around NW Arkansas each year (7,470 in 2016). 629 students participated in the Farm to Table program in 2016. My role at Apple Seeds as the Farm to Table Coordinator correlates directly with my future goals because it allows me increase students' excitement around eating fruits and vegetables and to teach them the skills to create healthy recipes for themselves. I believe that the education and empowerment my service brings about to the students will make lasting impressions on both them and their communities.”
Thank you, Sarah, for your service!
Profile in Service: Don Bennett
Description of Service: Site Supervisor for VISTA and GardenCorps members at Tri Cycle Farms, who maintains a strong collaboration, connection and admiration for the Arkansas FoodCorps team.
Hometown: Hot Springs, Arkansas, but has considered Fayetteville home for over 36 years
“AmeriCorps service members have been serving at Tri Cycle since the founding of Tri Cycle in 2011. I hope to improve my team building and facilitation skills every year by working with AmeriCorps service members. AmeriCorps is the window of opportunity to make Tri Cycle a sustainable non profit and replicable endeavor. This year will be the most challenging and productive yet. With everyone in place, I will potentially work with over 23 service members in 2017 in some capacity. Together we are gonna rock the NWA community!
At a minimum, Tri Cycle engages 6,000 people a year. But after 2017 is complete, closer to 10,000 or 12,000 people will be impacted by “Community Through Soil” with programs, like food recovery, volunteer opportunities, taste tours, youth groups, service learning and school field trips. These many activities all support our mission of sharing, teaching and farming.
These connections we are forging in community are long-lasting. This summer a long time volunteer and former 2-term FoodCorps service member is having her wedding reception at Tri Cycle. Her fiance, who is a TCF volunteer too, proposed to her in the TCF Diversity Garden a couple of years ago. A very wise young lady (our first GardenCorps service member, Emily Deitchler) told me, “It’s important to teach that peas are in pods and potatoes grow in the ground, but ultimately the thing of most importance is the connection we make while we are doing it.” She and many others I've had the privilege to serve with embody the spirit and mission of AmeriCorps, a mission of service, collaboration and sustainable communities we proudly share at Tri Cycle Farms.”
Thank you, Don, for facilitating the good work of AmeriCorps service members!
Profile in Service: Amy Joens
Service Description: FoodCorps Fellow, Arkansas
Previous Service: 2 years of FoodCorps, Des Moines Public Schools, Des Moines, IA
Hometown: Cedar Rapids, Iowa
“Service is using your skills and knowledge to respectfully come alongside a community to help catalyze positive momentum. It’s finding the assets in a people and a place and helping inspire them to work together for a more just, sustainable, healthy world. It is about stepping up to lift others up, so you can step back and see the change flourish that you helped encourage.
I was fortunate to be able to extend my involvement with FoodCorps beyond two years of service to do a year of the “fellowship.” As a Fellow, I support ten FoodCorps Service Members across Arkansas. Each of them serves unique communities: rural, urban, and suburban. Our service is geared toward working with kids, schools, and families of students. The fellowship has offered me full-time work, growing different kinds of skills and developing myself in organization, planning, mentoring, and management roles. I am sure I will continue to use these skills as well as the many skills that I attained during my service in future food systems and justice work that I hope to be involved in. Plus, the many networks and people that I have been so fortunate to work alongside during my involvement with FoodCorps service have me rooted into this work and given me great mentors, professional connections, and many many opportunities for future projects and careers.
FoodCorps in NW Arkansas is lucky to partner with Tri Cycle Farms quite often in several different ways. We’ve hosted events at the farm, have participated in service projects at the farm where our service members have learned new skills and joined together in service with other AmeriCorps members, and several of our members weekly benefit from partnering in participation with the food recovery program at Tri Cycle Farms. They use this food in their schools for cooking and nutrition lessons, as well as to supplement backpack programs and food pantries at their school to give kids and families access to high-quality, nutritious foods.
I’ll never forget the child that came into the garden crying during a particularly rough day. Life wasn’t fair, and he was feeling pretty down. I gently asked him if he wanted to work in the garden, and he brightened up as I showed him how to use a shovel to loosen the dirt so we could pull the weeds out. When I came back to him several minutes later, he was proudly standing next to a giant hole that he dug. Though that wasn’t quite what we needed, he attained a new skill, felt a part of something bigger than himself, and was proud of what he had done. He told me, “Miss Amy, you rock. Thank you for teaching me how to dig a hole! I feel so proud of myself, and I can’t wait to tell my mom what I can do.” To me, service is about the small, yet transformative changes that occur when we are intentional about building lasting, trusting relationships, and we look to our community to what it needs and wants rather than just what we want.”
Thank you, Amy, for your service! You rock, Miss Amy!
Profiles in Service: Mollie Kenerson
Service Description: FoodCorps, Harp Elementary, Springdale, Arkansas 2015-2017
Hometown: Rochester, NY
“Service, to me, is a way of sharing one's passions to better the world. There are so many different ways to serve and the ability to choose something you know, love, or want to learn more about is an amazing way to grow independently, as well as with your community. While service can, at times, be all-encompassing and exhausting, I always finish the day with a smile, knowing I was able to do something meaningful.
In my service as an elementary school service member and educator, I have learned an incredible amount when it comes to curriculum building, community event planning, as well as garden and nutrition education. These experiences will be very helpful in my plan to continue in education after service and become a professor, with the hopes of teaching service learning courses that engage college students in the local community.
Harp Elementary school is the place of learning for 600 students in Springdale, Arkansas. Our community is 57% Hispanic, 26% White and 9% Pacific Islander, which consists mainly of students from the Marshall Islands. We are diverse, speaking many different languages and carrying various customs from countries all across the world.
We’ve just recently began our relationship with Tri Cycle Farms and are exuberant to have the opportunity to work with everyone there. We attend food recovery weekly and use the various produce and grocery goods to make snacks in our garden club, stock our family food pantry, and provide snacks for the Ozark Guidance Center’s summer programming. We are excited to continue this relationship and spread more of these amazing products throughout our school community.
Over the course of FoodCorps’ time at Harp Elementary, it has been amazing to watch children learn and grow. As we highlight local lettuce on our lunch line, we’ve seen numbers of students eating salad daily increase as we continue to host garden work days. The amount of people that show up grows, and as we teach nutritional recipes, we see more students seeking out the information to make them at home This spring we will be turning our large, in ground garden (100’x20’) into a communal space in which families will be given their own sections to grow the foods they want to eat. We are so excited to provide this opportunity and look forward to the continued growth of gardening in our school and broader community.”
Thank you, Mollie, for your service!
Profile in Service: Dawn Jones
Service Description: AmeriCorps VISTA Media & Community Outreach Coordinator at Tri Cycle Farms, effective May, 2016
Previous Service: AmeriCorps VISTA, Omni Center, Fayetteville, Arkansas, February 2014-February 2016
Hometown: Jefferson City, MO. Fayetteville has been home for most of thirty years.
“As an AmeriCorps service member, I’ve been facilitated and supported in combining my personal interest in community service programs with my professional experience in community relations and media services. The opportunity to be part of caring programs which address the various challenges facing low-income families is very satisfying. Each day does make a difference. This focus is personally very meaningful. I have been continually impressed by and grateful for the training, resources and opportunities AmeriCorps provides, particularly in the VISTA program.
As a VISTA Alumna, it’s engaging and satisfying to help develop, build and increase programs and systems capacity as one member of a great team during Tri Cycle’s initial year as an AmeriCorps sponsor organization.”
Profile in Service: Anna Fisher
Service Description: FoodCorps, Bayyari Elementary School, Springdale, Arkansas
Hometown: Cedar Rapids, Iowa
“I serve with FoodCorps because I believe that every child deserves access to fresh foods and the education needed to live a healthy life.I believe that students who put their hands in the dirt and watch their food grow are more likely to develop better lifelong eating habits.
After my AmeriCorps service I would like to continue working towards a career in dietetics. Through this year of service I am getting experience with child nutrition and the school lunch program, which are two areas that I would like to work in after receiving my dietetics license.
I serve 675 students at Bayyari Elementary but also help other FoodCorps members throughout Arkansas to connect kids to healthy foods. TCF food recovery has been a huge help in my cooking lessons and supplies foods to use in my after school Garden Club.”
Thank you, Anna, for your service!
Profile in Service: Delilah Clark
Service Description: AmeriCorps VISTA Volunteer Coordinator, Tri Cycle Farms, Fayetteville, Arkansas
Hometown: Canyon, Texas
“I am a PhD Candidate in Comparative Literature at the University of Arkansas, and I’ve volunteered at Tri Cycle since the first spring planting in 2012. My service year at TCF has allowed me to live what I love about the humanities: the exploration of empathy within complex systems. In my grad student life, I study modern Arabic poetry that relates to landscape and representations of the rural. Even though coordinating volunteers at a nonprofit urban farm and critically studying poetry from the Levant are vastly different disciplines, both allow me to engage in a deeply rewarding experiences at the nexus of human and environment. The service year also reinforces for me that teaching and learning cannot be isolated to classrooms.
Not from a single encounter, but from dozens of conversations with volunteers in the garden, I am reminded over and over again that people genuinely want to be close to the land and want to know that they are part of a community. University students tell me about their family’s farms in distant locations. Teen volunteers remember helping their grandparents with home gardens. International students describe the vegetables and flowers they grew while they were growing up. There is no reason that we have to be cut off from land or from each other. The connections that we build by overcoming obstacles and doing good together provide a sense of grounding that helps us resist the kinds of negativity and isolation that make us feel like we don’t matter in the world.
In my experience, service requires that we open ourselves to committed listening, to creative and sensitive questioning, and, for better or worse, making more with less. If we really listen and we really engage, it’s impossible not to help. Service is the coming-together to overcome different kinds of poverty, not the least of which is loneliness.”
Profile in Service: Jenni Vaughan
Service Description: FoodCorps, FPS Agee-Lierly Life Preparation Services (ALLPS) - West Campus, Fayetteville, Arkansas
Previous Service: AmeriCorps VISTA at Apple Seeds, School Garden Market Coordinator, Fayetteville AR, August 2015 to August 2016
Hometown: Cabot, Arkansas
“I discovered that I love working with young adults. Before this service term, I envisioned my future self to be working with adolescents; however, I have found that high school students are a joy to teach. I hope to be able to continue working with high school aged students throughout my career. My service at ALLPS has also helped deepen my love for horticulture, and I now cannot imagine a future without being covered in dirt daily. In addition to my longtime goal of becoming a Registered Dietitian, I now want to further my education in the field of agriculture.
Service means coming into work every day and loving what I do. I literally feel as if I have the dreamiest job in the world. Service means waking up with a smile on my face because I am excited to interact with students, work with plants, and see both grow. I get to create a beautiful space that nurtures curiosity, self-discovery, and nutritional awareness. I believe that everyone should have access to healthy food, and service with FoodCorps has given me the opportunity to back up my beliefs with direct action.
Thank goodness for Tri Cycle! Before teaming up for food recovery in December, our cooking classes were often meager, scrapped together snacks. Classes that were once inconsistent are now developed and sustainable. Food is the way to a teenager’s heart! I could not have made such a meaningful impact without the assistance of Tri Cycle Farm’s Food Recovery Program. In addition to revamped cooking classes, I am also able to provide small, healthy snacks to students throughout the day. Of the 200 students at ALLPS, 67% receive free or reduced lunches, and some students experience food insecurity. Tri Cycle has helped to keep students from leaving my classroom empty handed.
One morning, as I was carrying in a load from food recovery, students chased me down to tell me, “You make me so happy, and that helps me come to school.” If you have ever worked with angsty teenagers, then you know such a verbal expression is a high honor. I can’t tell if they love me for my food or my personality; either way it doesn’t get any better than this.”
Thank you, Jenni, for your service! We agree with your students!
AmeriCorps programs are administered through the Corporation for National and Community Service. To learn more about the service year and how to apply for any of these critically important programs, visit www.nationalservice.gov/.
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