AmeriCorps members serve over 80,000 Americans through projects around the nation each year. One of these projects is Solid Ground’s Community Food Education (CFE) program, which facilitates cooking, nutrition, and gardening classes for adults, youth, and families around the greater Seattle area.
CFE staff, AmeriCorps service members, and volunteers equip individuals with the knowledge, confidence, resources, and skills to navigate and influence the food system, while working to counter the barriers of racism and oppression that interfere with individuals’ right to food. Solid Ground is fortunate to have four AmeriCorps members currently serving with CFE. These folks play a significant role in teaching, assisting program participants, and making sure classes go smoothly.
Taylor Pellizzari, MPH was born and raised in Wisconsin. She majored in psychology with minors in nutrition and at-risk youth at the University of Wisconsin – La Crosse and earned her Master of Public Health in Colorado before moving to Seattle. She stumbled upon the CFE AmeriCorps position while looking for employment, and although not originally what she had in mind, the job description and Solid Ground’s mission seemed like a fit.
Her favorite part of AmeriCorps is the opportunity to move somewhere new and serve the community, while gaining professional experience. She loves being able to use her knowledge and passion for food security and nutrition to engage with the community and get to know participants on a personal level. She also appreciates Solid Ground’s culture of learning and the opportunity to develop skills in anti-racism, diet culture, and food marketing.
Taylor says that facilitating classes with an interpreter has definitely had a learning curve, but working with other languages has also been extremely rewarding and enjoyable. After AmeriCorps, Taylor would love to continue calling Seattle home and hopes to remain in the nonprofit sector, ideally focusing on women’s nutritional needs and maternal health.
Emmah Ferguson, originally from southwest Washington, moved to Seattle to complete her Bachelor’s in Psychology at Seattle University. She knew she wanted to do a year of service within her community and couldn’t believe it when she read the position description for CFE’s AmeriCorps positions – it seemed like the perfect fit!
Being an AmeriCorps service member has been an incredible learning experience for Emmah. The amount of knowledge she’s gained since starting in October makes her feel like she’s been here much longer, and she doesn’t think she would have learned nearly as much from a job straight out of college. Her favorite part about CFE is working with kids. As a part of the Youth Food Education Team, most of her fieldwork is teaching kids at schools or community centers, who she reports are VERY funny.
Living on a service stipend, especially in an expensive city like Seattle, is no easy task. For Emmah, it’s been difficult to stay rested and energized while balancing multiple jobs and responsibilities on limited resources. However, she feels that it has been a humbling and rewarding experience. After her service term with AmeriCorps ends, she plans on going back to school to become a nurse.
Elizabeth Cox was born and raised in Seattle but spent the last four years at Willamette University. Having graduated last spring with a Bachelor’s in Economics, she says it’s nice to be back! This is her second AmeriCorps term, having served as an AmeriCorps VISTA two summers ago at Hunger Intervention Program. Elizabeth had heard of Solid Ground and was interested in learning more about the agency’s work. CFE presented this opportunity while allowing her to work in areas she has always been passionate about – food security and food access.
She’s very thankful to be part of a team of people who care so much about what they do. Leading Cooking Matters classes around Seattle has also allowed her to get to know different parts of the city and the communities who live there. Ensuring that class curriculum is applicable and tailored to each class can sometimes be tricky, but both Solid Ground and the sites they work with are committed to being responsive to the needs of each community. After AmeriCorps, Elizabeth hopes to continue in work related to food access and systems. She’s also interested in pursuing a master’s degree in Public Health or Urban Planning.
Jackie Rybin has lived in Nebraska and Arizona most of her life, obtaining a Bachelor’s in Public Health from the University of Arizona, where she lived before moving up to Seattle five years ago. She is currently pursuing a second Bachelor’s degree in Nutritional Sciences online at the University of Arizona.
She first heard about the CFE AmeriCorps positions as a Cooking Matters volunteer in 2016. She loves being part of a broader community working to make change and help others – and her favorite part of being a CFE AmeriCorps member has been the amazing team of people who share similar passions for food justice and nutrition education.
While classroom management can be challenging, Jackie says she has received great advice from supervisors and teachers that has made all the difference in her ability to effectively facilitate lessons. After AmeriCorps service ends (she’ll be very sad when it does), she will be in the final year of her Nutritional Science degree and plans to start applying for dietetic internships in pursuit of a career as a Community Nutrition Dietitian.
AmeriCorps Week was March 8-14 this year – but it’s never too late to express appreciation for our awesome AmeriCorps members! Thanks to our amazing team for all they do to support our communities to know, grow, and eat healthy food on a budget.
Questions? Contact Carrie Schaffner, CFE Project Coordinator at firstname.lastname@example.org.