Year 2 Reflections: Harvest VISTA Accomplishments

05 Jun 2023, by Admin in Harvest Blog, Blue Mountain Action Council

AmeriCorps member Bethany Brown serves as the Community Food System Harvest VISTA at Blue Mountain Action Council Food Bank in Walla Walla, Washington. The overall goal of the Harvest VISTA program is to reduce food waste while increasing the amount of fresh nutritious produce available to people experiencing poverty by building capacity within sustainable gleaning, produce recovery, and other food system programs. Bethany is the Coordinator for the Walla Walla Valley Food Coalition.

It is that time of year that Walla Walla Food Bank Harvest VISTA Program is winding down for Year 2. 160+ of our awesome volunteers donated their time, giving more than 320 hours and gleaning over 39,000 pounds of fresh produce from local farmers. If one puts a price tag on all that food, it would be about $111,100 distributed to over 9,750 families. The food was distributed to our community partners such as Salvation Army and St. Vincent DePaul who in turn distributes directly to food insecure individuals and families. We also gave the food directly to individuals through our routine mobile food distribution program which covers several counties such as Walla Walla County and Columbia County. Additionally, we served other community partners such as WW Community College Pantry, homeless shelters, senior centers, and senior apartment complexes when necessary!

Many other projects were developed or enhanced successfully over the year. For example, a food nutrition policy plan was submitted to the Board and a sustainable volunteer program guide was developed. Additionally, the WW Valley Food Coalition assembled a Steering Committee for a Food/Famer Cooperative for the creation of a Food Processing Plant. This committee raised $25,000 for a feasibility study and with encouragement and guidance, the committee is moving ahead to reach their goal in maintaining the food processing plant. In addition, current and new partnerships have made this endeavor stronger than ever such as networking with the community on a regular basis to create future sustainability for food insecurity.