Working with Wayside Food Programs through AmeriCorps has been a great learning experience for me. Since September, I have enjoyed getting to know many of Wayside’s dedicated volunteers, and I have appreciated their longstanding desire to serve. In building relationships with meal guests, I have seen the important community-building aspect of Wayside’s Community Meals Program, especially for individuals in danger of isolation. It has become clear to me that Wayside is helping people in the community develop healthy eating habits, as well as strengthening their social support systems.
The following will give you a better idea about my current involvement with Wayside, and also about upcoming projects.
Each week, I help Carly Milkowski plan meals based on the donated food available and then work with volunteers to prepare the dishes at Wayside’s Reed kitchen. I am on-site at our Family Supper at the Parkside Neighborhood Center and at lunches and dinners at the Woodfords Congregational Church. I support the volunteers and greet guests, and as part of my training with Wayside I completed the Serve Safe training to serve as the Certified Food Protection Manager at meal sites.
During meals I bring printed resources for guests, including healthy recipes that correlate with our entrees. I have invited educators from the Cooperative Extension’s Eat Well Program to offer guests nutrition education at Woodfords and other meal sites in the near future. For the rest of my term, I will work with Wayside’s other AmeriCorps member, Sam Russo, to provide more nutrition resources for Wayside clients. I am planning information sessions about the Portland Hour Exchange program and using EBT at farmers markets for meals guests in the spring.
In addition, my position is based in supporting Wayside’s efforts to collect and utilize feedback from program participants to meet the evolving needs of our communities. I have been surveying Mobile Food Pantry users and Community Meal guests about their satisfaction with services and about how participation has impacted their eating habits and/or food security.
Once the surveys are complete, I will compile them into reports that the staff can use to improve programs. I am also excited to work on volunteer appreciation, as well as a possible volunteer inspired fundraiser. Thank you to everyone for welcoming me to Wayside!