Connecticut: Hartford Food System seeks AmeriCorps VISTA Outreach Coordinator

23 May

Hartford Food System (HFS) is a non-profit organization in Hartford, CT that is seeking enthusiastic, qualified candidates for an Americorps VISTA position as an Outreach Coordinator for our North End Farmers Market and, to some extent, for farmers markets throughout the city. Since 1978, HFS has been dedicated to long-term, sustainable responses to food problems in Hartford through non-emergency and system-based strategies..  Partnering with many allies, we implement programs that increase understanding of food security problems, improve access to nutritious and affordable food, help consumers make informed food choices, and advance responsible food policies at all levels of government. We are one of the nation’s oldest organizations working to promote the concept of community food security. 

The project to be supported by a VISTA is Hartford Food System’s development and support of farmer’s market availability and capacity in Hartford, with a focus on a low to moderate income urban population, most with SNAP or WIC benefits and with limited access to fresh fruits and vegetables.

The primary focus of the VISTA’s work will be with Hartford Food System and farmer’s market staff/volunteers to understand and influence the purchasing patterns of low income urban residents, particularly at farmers markets. Farmer’s market purchases occur through a number of mechanisms including cash payments, WIC coupons, senior coupons, and SNAP benefits (via EBT cards). It has been observed in both Hartford and others parts of the U.S. that SNAP purchases, in particular, are very low compared to the other mechanisms, and that there are significant numbers of individuals who are not even aware that SNAP purchases can occur at the farmer’s markets. This is an especially important issue in Hartford’s urban neighborhoods which lack ongoing sources of fresh produce and also in which many residents lack the transportation to readily purchase fresh produce. The VISTA will work with staff to understand the barriers along with practical strategies to influence the situation, particularly those which can fundamentally and sustainably help to shift the purchasing and food consumption patterns of adults and children in Hartford’s low income neighborhoods. In addition, the VISTA will also coordinate activities with existing organizations doing a variety of types of outreach activities related to SNAP.

The VISTA’s work will include ongoing interactions with those who come to the markets, those in the neighborhoods who do not come, volunteers, market vendors (farm staff), and HFS staff. It will also include investigation and research into current practices in other geographic areas that are showing good results. The role will include participation in the development of metrics to determine whether and how progress is occurring. We also anticipate involvement in the mobile technology options for the market site(s) in Hartford. In summary, we anticipate that this will be an active and multi-dimensional role that will be both important to the community and appealing to a candidate who is interested in food and urban health.

Ideal candidates will have an undergraduate degree and familiarity with community outreach, urban food systems, research, and results measurement.  Interest in urban and community health, healthy food access and nutrition, and the community sources of food is important. An outgoing personality and a willingness to engage community residents in conversation and problem-solving are essential.  Proficiency in Spanish is desirable but not required. 

Please send a cover letter and resume to Martha Page, Executive Director, by e-mail to mpage@hartfordfood.org or by regular mail to Hartford Food System, 86 Park Street, 2nd Floor, Hartford, CT 06106.  Questions can be sent by e-mail or call 860-296-9325. Interested candidates must also fill out the Americorps VISTA application at www.americorps.gov.               

This one-year position will start on August 8, 2011 with a required Americorps VISTA Pre-Service Orientation. Please visit the Americorps VISTA website for more information on stipends, health insurance, education awards, and other VISTA benefits. 

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