Special Blog Post By:  Coleen Ju, AmeriCorps VISTA, Volunteer and Resource Coordinator

For the past year, I have had the honorable pleasure of serving as Second Harvest Food Bank’s first ever AmeriCorps VISTA. Working for this amazing organization has been filled with countless memories and lessons learned. My VISTA year of service was focused on on the Food Bank’s Produce Mobile – evaluating the program and creating ways to increase client and volunteer participation.

I spent months visiting sites and speaking to site coordinators, volunteers, and community members. I worked closely with other departments at the Food Bank and began to familiarize myself not only with the Produce Mobile program, but also with Second Harvest Food Bank as a whole.

Now, as I reflect back on my year of service, I see that the Produce Mobile program is so much more than just a means of providing fresh fruits and vegetables to those in need. It’s a program that clearly embodies Second Harvest Food Bank, representing the values and mission of our organization and us as a community.

Here are the top 5 ways the Produce Mobile program personifies the Food Bank!

1. Open Doors

The Produce Mobile program is everyone’s program. It has a simple self-certification process that allows anyone who needs the help to easily receive it. The welcoming and non-judgmental open door policy directly reflects the Food Bank’s office culture, where titles may exist but barriers do not; where an AmeriCorps VISTA can comfortably talk to a department director about something as simple as Disneyland or as complex as poverty in the Bay Area.

2. Positive Collaboration

The Produce Mobile is an intricate program that relies on collaboration and partnership. Site coordinators and volunteers must work together to serve their community alongside the Food Bank. Similarly, the Food Bank could not thrive and develop new ways to better serve our community without the constant collaborating between individuals and departments.

3. Healthy Food for a Healthy Future

As stated in the name, our Produce Mobiles provide clients with a bountiful array of fresh produce items. The Food Bank is a strong advocate for educating the community on healthy eating habits. Providing fresh fruits and vegetables to our clients is a direct way to increase their chances for a healthy future.

4. Self-Sufficiency

Sometimes our community volunteers are also clients. By working at the Produce Mobiles, they have taken charge of the change they want to see in their lives. Community members have the capacity to develop leadership skills, while doing good for their family and neighbors. This sense of ownership and personal growth can also be seen throughout the Food Bank, ranging from project responsibilities to internal job development.

5. Compassion

At the forefront of every program and every project at the Food Bank is the compassion we have for our neighbors in need. The Food Bank’s mission is to lead our community to ensure that anyone who needs a healthy meal can get one and the Produce Mobile does just that. At the Food Bank. we understand that poverty and hunger is still ever present in prosperous Silicon Valley. We care deeply for our neighbors in need and the Produce Mobile program is just one small step in the path to alleviating hunger.

As I get ready to start a new chapter in my life, I look back fondly at everything I’ve done and everyone I’ve met here at Second Harvest. This organization is nothing shy of inspirational and I feel so lucky to have played a small part in its great mission.