Honoring Martin Luther King, Jr’s Legacy Through Service

02 Feb 2022, by Admin in Harvest Blog, OIC of Washington

Gabe Gibbens is an AmeriCorps service member, serving as the Gleaning and Education Coordinator VISTA for OIC of Washington. Located in the Yakima Valley of Washington, OIC operates a food bank and distribution center, community center, rental assistance programs, GED courses, career training, and more. Gabriel serves at the food bank and community center, where he recruits and manages volunteers, promotes Washington State SNAP-Ed nutrition education, and connects the food bank to area farmers.

Harvest VISTA Gabriel celebrated MLK Jr. and his legacy on January’s MLK Jr. Day by addressing food insecurity in Southeast Yakima. Operated out of the Henry Beauchamp Community Center, Gabriel served a part of the food insecure population in Yakima through Washington State TEFAP, which stands for The Emergency Food Assistance Program. TEFAP is a federal program that helps supplement the diets of low-income Americans by providing them with emergency food assistance at no cost. The United States Department of Agriculture provides 100% American grown foods and administrative funds to locations that operate the program.

The event’s focus was on providing food insecure individuals with basic foods, sourced from the OIC of Washington food bank through TEFAP. Gabriel provided 400 food boxes to the Henry Beauchamp Community Center for the MLK Jr. event with the help of volunteers that he has been actively recruiting and managing during his service term. Volunteers were mobilized to create, pack, and transport TEFAP foods from the food bank to the community center under Gabriel’s supervision. The many volunteer hands made it possible for the event to reach a greater population while remaining efficient and organized. In addition, two State/National AmeriCorps members from the Yakima area helped with loading food into cars, directing traffic, and answering questions on the day of the event, which allowed for a partnership to be created between the AmeriCorps members serving in the area.

Due to the start of a new year, Gabriel attended to TEFAP annual paperwork during the event, which included recording recipient’s information and helping them fill out the USDA
form that grants them access to the food assistance program. Each year, annual forms must be filled out and submitted for each individual who requests assistance. Ensuring that these forms are completed for each individual receiving food assistance is vital to the OIC of Washington food bank, as it shows the expanded reach of the food bank, creating potential for additional funding and increased capacity. The Henry Beauchamp Community Center is important in the effort for increased capacity of this program because of its location in southeast Yakima, compared to the OIC food bank located in the north part of the city. Being in a different part of the city creates opportunity for food insecure populations that may not normally have access to the typical food bank location to sign-up for the program, resulting in a larger population served. This increase in numbers is one of the key drivers in increasing program capacity for the next year.