What is AmeriCorps you may ask?
AmeriCorps is a network of local, state, and national service programs that connects more than 70,000 Americans each year in intensive service to meet our country’s critical needs in education, public safety, health, and the environment. AmeriCorps members serve with more than 3,000 nonprofits, public agencies, and faith-based and community organizations. Children’s Hunger Alliance is one non-profit agency that hosts members.The mission of Children’s Hunger Alliance is to break the cycle of childhood hunger through education, leadership, advocacy, and service.
There are benefits to the AmeriCorps members. I get full health benefits, a monthly living stipend (very modest about 1,000 a month and when I finish my service I will get a 5,350 dollar education stipend to go towards my student loans. Most of the people we will be helping live in poverty. So by living this way ourselves, we can better understand what it is like to live in poverty, and relate to our community. I will be eligible for food stamps which I am actually super pumped about. I should get about 180 dollars a month. We had a speaker come in and talk to us during orientation about food stamps and other public assistance. I have a whole different perspective on this. Most people think that if they try to apply for food stamps even when they are eligible for them, then they are taking away that money from people who need it more. In actuality, all the money given to the state for public assistance is not used, and when it is not used, it goes back, and the next year we don’t get as much. Food stamps are nothing to be ashamed. They now came out with a cool card that looks just like a debit card, so it makes the transactions faster and less noticeable.
Have you ever seen those commercials of the poor, starving children over in Africa, where they want you to donate money? Well, right here in the United States we are experiencing poverty as well. Approximately 21 percent of children, or 15.6 million, will be living in poverty in 2010, according to the study’s estimate. Half of those children will be living in “extreme poverty,” defined as below 50 percent of the poverty line. These findings come from The Child and Youth Well-Being Index Project, a yearly analysis funded by the private philanthropic group, the Foundation for Child Development. There are starving children right in our own backyard and our communities. Ohio is now home to 1.5 million people — 13.7 percent of its population — living below the federal poverty level. For a family of four, that’s a household income of $22,050 or less a year. Akron, Ohio has approximately a 17.5% poverty rate. There is a link between poverty and childhood obesity. Children are not getting proper nutrition and are not in safe areas to engage in physical activities outside. Lower priced foods such as pop, candy chips, fast food are purchased over more expensive, shorter shelf life fruits and vegetables.
The Children’s Hunger Alliance is making a difference:
Children’s Hunger Alliance works to ensure children receive nutritious food and engage in healthy activities after school. They partner with youth-serving organizations that operate programs and locate new sites to ensure children are receiving a hot meal or snack to end each day. They offer nutrition education and fitness curricula to teach kids healthy habits for life. The physical fitness curriculum is called CATCH. The Coordinated Approach to Childhood Health (CATCH) physical education curriculum is designed to promote healthful behaviors in school children and reduce their subsequent risk of cardiovascular disease. The program consists of 20 lessons focusing on non-competitive physical activity for elementary and middle-school aged children. Each hour-long program engages everyone and includes a warm-up, fitness activity and cool-down session. Kids move at their own pace and have fun! The nutrition education program is called Food Folks. The Food Folks nutrition education curriculum consists of 12 hands-on lessons focusing on healthy behaviors for elementary school age children. Each one-hour lesson includes information on basic nutrition concepts, the hands-on preparation of a healthy snack, a learning activity and physical activity that reinforce the nutrition concepts. After the lessons are complete, family members and caregivers are invited to attend a family night where they play games, enjoy a healthy meal or snack and exhibit what they have learned as a result of attending the program.
I am very excited to be starting my year of service in the AmeriCorps working for the Children’s Hunger Alliance. I am happy that I will be making a difference in children’s lives and planting a seed in their minds regarding good nutrition and exercise. I hope to be able to teach them nutrition basics and translate nutrition into an understandable way that even the children can understand. I hope to touch these children’s lives, and be a great role model for them.
I better start budgeting now for my year living in poverty, but I think this experience will be priceless!