Every year, Indy Hunger Network sponsors AmeriCorps VISTAs to join us in working to fight hunger and poverty in the Greater Indianapolis area. Meet the current team!

 

Jessica Sullivan is the Indy Hunger Network VISTA working on the WIC Marketing and Outreach Project, Washington Township Project, and WeCare Raphael Health Clinic grant.  Before volunteering with Indy Hunger Network, Jessica interned at St. Mary’s Health Care System in Athens, Georgia writing grants to fund a community garden and volunteering in the hospital’s produce stand. She discovered food insecurity’s impact on health and well-being, but also that institutions could design interventions to reduce food insecurity in the community

 

As graduation was approaching, Jessica wanted to continue work addressing food insecurity in her “gap year” before pursuing a master’s degree. Jessica graduated from the University of Georgia with a Bachelor’s of Science in Psychology and a Bachelor’s of Art in English in 2016 and accepted a VISTA position at the Indy Hunger Network immediately after. During the time she has been here, Jessica has been able to develop and maintain collaborative partnerships to combat food insecurity. Jessica has been working on projects in collaboration with local schools, health care organizations, and State and County WIC offices to reduce food insecurity.

 

Jessica hopes to pursue a Master’s of Public Health after her year as a VISTA, where she can continue to work in communities to promote health and food security. 

 

 

Lauren Scharenbrock is the Fresh Bucks Coordinator AmeriCorps VISTA for the Indy Hunger Network. She graduated with a Bachelor’s of the Arts degree in Environmental Sociology from the University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point in 2014. After graduation, she packed up her apartment and moved to South Dakota to spend the summer learning, planting, and weeding on an organic farm that sold its produce using the CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) model to 500 families around the Sioux Falls area. Coming out of that experience, she knew the difficulties, first hand, of producing nutritious food. 

 

When she saw the posting on the AmeriCorps website for a position that combined her knowledge of growing food with her want to be a part of improving the food system, she applied right away. She accepted the Fresh Bucks Coordinator position in early 2015 and began her work that April. 

 

She has since re-upped for a second VISTA term, continuing to serve the Indianapolis community as the Fresh Bucks Coordinator, expanding the program into more farmers’ markets and implementing grant funding that will allow the program to grow into a cooperative grocery and a larger retail location. Accepting this AmeriCorps VISTA position with the Indy Hunger Network has allowed her first-hand experience in the non-profit world and what goes into running a program, while making connections with people throughout the non-profit sector in the greater Indianapolis area. 

 

After the completion of her second VISTA term, Lauren would like to continue working within hunger relief serving the Indianapolis community. 

 

This year, the Indy Hunger Network also sponsored VISTAs at two of our partner sites.

 

Shaamora, Connect2Help/211:

 

If you were to ask Shaamora Harden three years ago how she’d be spending 2016 – 2017, being an Americorps VISTA would not be part of her answer.  But it turned out to be one of the best decisions she’s ever made.

Shaamora is a graduate of IU’s Kelley School of Business (at IUPUI) and Anderson University where she received her Bachelor’s of Science in Business with a Marketing concentration and a Master’s of Business Administration respectively.  She used her education to carve a career in Music Business and Education for about 10 years collectively.  During this time, she gained vast experience in creating marketing strategies for nationally released music and film projects, leading a marketing department, drafting marketing plans, writing press releases and teaching adult students online.

Upon the closing of Indianapolis’ Double 8 grocery stores in 2015, she started researching the impact of food insecurity and food deserts on a community.  As a lover of grocery shopping, Shaamora could not fathom the idea of a person not being able to have access to quality, affordable, and nutritious foods.  Although she had the luxury of going to any grocery store of her choosing, it troubled her that people living just a few blocks away did not have that same choice.  Her concern led her to action.  In early 2016, after being involved in local food access equality efforts, Shaamora decided that she wanted to do more.  She wanted a career which would allow her to combat food insecurity on a full-time basis.

After making this decision, she realized that she had no idea how to do this.  One fateful afternoon, she conducted a Google search and came across the Indy Hunger Network website.  Shaamora told us, “I didn’t even know this organization existed.  As I read more about IHN, I knew this was place that I needed to be.”

She read about the VISTA positions and was a little reluctant to apply.  “I was a little nervous about the making the commitment to live on VISTA’s wages.  I didn’t understand how I was going to be able to support myself”.  She researched another options but kept returning back to the IHN site and reading the descriptions of the projects.  Shaamora realized that this opportunity may be too good to pass up so she mustered up the courage to share the news with their family as well as request their support in living arrangements.  

In the summer of 2016, she began her VISTA service as a Food Resource Outreach Specialist for Connect2Help211.  Shaamora’s primary objective in this position is to find new food resources that can be added to the C2H database.  She does this by conducting online, phone, and in-person research throughout the 35 counties that C2H serves. In addition, Shaamora also helps to educate agencies about Connect2Help211 via outreach visits and events.  

This position has provided her the opportunity to gain in-depth experience working in a non-profit, developing program management skills, utilizing project management experience, and considerably strengthening her networking skills.  Most importantly, VISTA has enabled Shaamora to get an up-close-and-personal view of the many ways organizations across the state are combating food insecurity in their respective communities.

After her VISTA service, Shaamora plans to secure a position working in the areas of either Community Outreach, Nutrition Education, Food Insecurity Relief or Community Economic Development.

 

Abby Rolland, Second Helpings:

 

Abby is the Storyteller AmeriCorps VISTA for Second Helpings through the Indy Hunger Network. Originally from Kokomo, Indiana, she graduated in 2015 from Gettysburg College with a History degree and Political Science and Anthropology minors. After graduating, Abby went abroad for seven months, first as a volunteer teaching English in Chile and then interning with a local women’s nonprofit in Phnom Penh, Cambodia. While she had amazing experiences, she wanted to do something to help her local community, so she returned to Indiana. 

 

Abby found out about AmeriCorps VISTA and the Indy Hunger Network during a job search through Charitable Advisors. Having volunteered with a similar, much smaller organization in college, she was instantly attracted to the Second Helpings (an Indy Hunger Network partner organization) mission of food rescue, hunger relief, and culinary job training. As the Storyteller VISTA, Abby interviews food donors, partner agencies that receive meals, volunteers, graduates of the culinary job training program, and many other supporters and partners of Second Helpings. She publishes a weekly blog about the people she interviews, and continues to raise awareness about Second Helpings through social media, newsletters, and other avenues, and has enjoyed meeting and forming connections with people truly making a difference in Central Indiana.

 

After completing her year of service, Abby hopes to find a job in the nonprofit or teaching field. In the future, she looks forward to returning to school and completing a master’s degree (and possible Ph.D.) in history and international relations.