Katie Engelman—Marion-Polk Food Share

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AmeriCorps VISTA Katie Engelman traveled 2,000 miles from Illinois to start her year of service in Salem, where she is helping Marion-Polk Food Share (MPFS) develop a sustainable program design for its youth farm initiative. She is also helping the launch of a job skills training program with their Youth Farm and Mill Creek Correctional Facility, as well as researching other farm-based microenterprise programming.

MFPS is a regional food bank that collects, collects, stores, and distributes emergency food supplies for a network of 100 nonprofit member agencies. Its mission is to end hunger in Marion and Polk counties in Oregon. One of the many ways MPFS lives up to this mission is by engaging the community in local food production through a large network of community gardens, innovative food production techniques, and training for next generation farmers.

The Youth Farm project specifically meets this goal by employing a crew of high-school students to grow fresh food for the community while gaining valuable work experience and learning about the impact of their food choices.

Some of Katie’s tasks with this project include resource development, marketing, and supporting the program as it grows by researching best practices and figuring out how to implement them at MPFS.

Katie knew that she wanted to join AmeriCorps before she graduated from college, because its projects “aligned with my personal and professional goals and interests.” These goals and interests revolve around a life of service.

“I developed a passion for social and environmental issues at a very young age and never strayed from that path,” said Katie. “Pursuing a life of service just seems right to me.”

Katie is also particularly interested in food sustainability, which is why she was most attracted to this project with MFPS.

“What drew me to MFPS organization as a whole was its unique stance as a regional food bank that is working to alleviate hunger not just by collecting and distributing food, but my engaging the community in ways to bring them out of poverty through these innovative farming and gardening programs,” said Katie.

With more than six months left in her VISTA year, Katie hopes to see the Youth Farm thrive well after the spring growing season.

“I hope that we could double the size of the youth crew to 12 participants and increase food production to provide more fresh nutritious food for our community,” said Katie.