After teaching science to high school students for eight years, Megan Rivera decided to embrace a new path that could further enhance her teaching and professional skills.
Megan wanted to serve her own community, Salem Oregon, while also extending her passion for teaching , an opportunity VISTA provided Through AmeriCorps, Megan enrolled in a position with Marion-Polk Food Share (MPFS), a regional food bank serving Marion and Polk counties.
This is not the first time Megan has volunteered with AmeriCorps VISTA. After earning her BS in biological science ten years ago, Megan joined AmeriCorps VISTA to help an organization conduct noxious weed education and outreach.
After her first year with VISTA, then establishing a career as a high school teacher, Megan is back to explore new opportunities and acquire skills she was unable to work on before.
Megan is now the driving force behind MFPS initiatives to increase knowledge about healthy eating habits and specialty diets to clients and partners as well as the sites where pantry food is distributed. Her role supports two large projects. First, Megan has been increasing nutrition and health awareness for clients with special dietary needs, so “they can feel supportive to live a lifestyle with their food stamps.” Secondly, Megan is forming partnerships with low-income housing sites that are looking to provide fresh produce to their residents to help them better “stretch their food dollar.”
As the year unfolds, she is looking forward to helping low-income residents who may be suffering with diseases that require special diets, such as diabetes,conditions exacerbated by limited income and lack of health education. Megan’s service helps teach clients how they can simultaneously improve their health and their financial circumstances by making small changes. . “It’s very empowering: to help yourself and make your own life better. People can feel very helpless when they have a disease.”
For those with established careers seeking to explore new paths through AmeriCorps VISTA, Megan gives this advice: “Take this as an opportunity to learn more about the people in the community, to network and understand what’s going on in your local community, and to create connections with those people.”