Carissa, age 23.

Host site: Clark County Food Bank in Vancouver, WA

I’m currently in my gap year between undergraduate and medical school, and I wanted to dedicate a year to service. Growing up, I volunteered for the Meals on Wheels program with my mother and sister; we did it together as a family. A big part of my family’s values was that “If you can give back, it’s your responsibility to give back.”

AmeriCorps was the first thing that came to mind.

Looking back now, I don’t know how everything aligned so well for me. This position combines two things I’m passionate about—food and nutrition. I love the work that I’m doing and the people I’m doing it with. The work we’re doing is having an impact on the community because we are in a unique position to reach a lot of people with our mobile food pantries and home deliveries, beyond the more traditional food pantry model. COVID has had an enormous impact in Clark County. I know that there is a huge need right now because we see it every day. We’re breaking records every week with how many families come to get food.

When we’re onsite at the warehouse, there’s never a worry about running out of food. However, our mobile food pantries have run out of food; months ago, we planned for 50 families, but over 70 showed up. We had to turn families away, which is heartbreaking. But the next time, we didn’t have the same problem because we learned from our mistakes.

In my day-to-day, I’m most passionate about meeting and interacting with people from the community. All I’m doing is giving them a box of food, but it warms my heart and makes me smile.  I recognize that I grew up in a bubble. I was born and raised in Traverse City, Michigan, and went to the University of Michigan, surrounded by similar people with similar backgrounds. I needed to meet different kinds of people to expand my definition of the world. So here I am. The Clark County Food Bank made me feel like I was joining a family—I don’t know how I got so lucky. I just stumbled across this role. I love everyone here.

I’ve been learning so much. And though I get my heart broken a lot from meeting people and hearing their stories of why they’re food insecure, I’m doing work that I value. It’s not easy, but it’s rewarding. It’s something that in 10 years, I’ll look back on and not regret a moment.


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