This post was written by Ruby Steedle, a nutrition educator at the Squirrel Hill Community Food Pantry.
As health corps members providing direct service, we see the tangible and immediate impacts of our service every day. But what we might see or think about as often is how the work we do and the way we do it will affect our host organizations and the populations we serve in the future, long after our year is completed.
A large part of my role at the pantry is developing materials to teach clients and members of the community about nutrition, food insecurity, and the resources and services we offer. Through these brochures and posters I am creating a physical legacy - every day I look at the materials created by previous health corps members who have left the pantry but are still educating members of our community through their resources. By creating materials for the pantry I aim to educate future pantry clients who will visit for the first time after I have already left. In addition to the materials I create, I also work to create and further develop relationships between the pantry and other agencies, community partners, and the general public. These partnerships build the future of the pantry, through volunteer opportunities, organizational support, and public visibility - ensuring that the community as a whole knows about and supports the work we do to end food insecurity.
Though our service is primarily motivated by the desire to improve the health and lives of our clients and patients, we also benefit from our positions. I can see already the ways in which my professional skill set has expanded and improved from just six months of service. This opportunity helps us as members to develop our abilities not only in terms of providing a service and achieving the desired outcomes, but also in our own ability to adapt and grow in the face of challenges. These are skills that we will carry along with us to all of our future endeavors, be it graduate school, clinical work, continuing in public service, or anything else. The outputs of this year is not limited to what we accomplish while serving at our sites - it includes all that we are able to achieve later on because of the skills we developed throughout this year.
As we move into the last half of our service, our focus must shift from the immediate work we are doing to the longer impact we hope to create. Through updating our position descriptions to reflect the important work we do and clearly documenting our progress and workflows we can improve the ability of future members or staff to continue and better our projects. The scope of our impact is so much greater when we think about the longer-term results of our service, both at our sites and through our future endeavors. While we often talk about health corps as our year of service, it would be short-sighted to think that our service ends when we leave. If we’ve done our jobs correctly and gotten as much out of this year as we can, our AmeriCorps year is just one small part of a lifetime of service.