We have a long history of working with some amazing people through the AmeriCorps VISTA program. In fact, AmeriCorps VISTA members have been instrumental in shaping and sustaining our organization since its early days. Our current AmeriCorps VISTA members continue on with that tradition, bringing unmatched energy, enthusiasm, and hard work to our team — not to mention creativity and innovative new ideas for approaching our work. Thank you Rachel, Rose, and Liesl!
Meet Rachel Van Scyoc
Rachel is an Ohio native who has been learning a lot about Rhode Island and its food system this past year. Rachel is a graduate of Capital University in Columbus, Ohio, with a degree in Communication Studies and Public Relations. Brought up to understand the value and importance of service, Rachel found the AmeriCorps program to be a natural next step after graduation. Farm Fresh Rhode Island’s mission resonated with her appreciation for good food and equitable access for all and her determination to work to dismantle the barriers that prevent equity.
As the inaugural Volunteer Coordinator AmeriCorps VISTA member at Farm Fresh RI, Rachel is working to build a system to recruit, train, manage, retain, and thank the many volunteers that give their time to make all of our programs at Farm Fresh RI possible. Like many nonprofits, Farm Fresh has an engaged and enthusiastic community of volunteers who believe in our work and are committed to being an active participant in the local food movement. “The work that Farm Fresh does would be impossible without the dedication and contribution of volunteers, and I am so grateful for their service,” Rachel said. “The volunteers at Farm Fresh want to be involved in the local food movement and understand the importance of eating local. It is great to have so much community support mobilized and helping us strengthen the local food system here in Rhode Island.”
Volunteers help Farm Fresh RI in a variety of ways, from participating in Veggie Box or Market Mobile packline, to supporting our Nutrition Education staff with programs at schools and senior centers, to being on the frontline of food access by engaging with farmers and eaters at Farmers Markets.
Rachel is approaching the end of her first year of service as an AmeriCorps VISTA member and will be continuing for another year of service with us. As she comes to the close of her first year of service, she has been reflecting on how challenging, yet humbling this experience has been. Through her first year she has developed relationships with our volunteers, heard their stories and reasons for volunteering, and strengthened our volunteer relations significantly. She looks forward to continuing her work with Farm Fresh during her second year of service to expand the capacity of our Volunteer Program.
“We are always looking for more volunteers too, so if you’re interested in getting involved, email me!” Contact Rachel about volunteering at email@example.com.
Meet Rose Serra
Rose was born and raised in Westerly, RI, where she grew up getting her hands dirty in her family’s garden, community gardens, and even as a farm hand at an organic vegetable farm in her hometown. She is a recent graduate from Eckerd College in St. Petersburg, FL, where she studied Biology and Environmental Studies. While in Florida, she interned with the Edible Peace Patch Project, where she gained experience with garden-based education that she brought with her to her role at Farm Fresh RI.
Now very passionate about spreading appreciation for healthy foods to others, Rose has been a part of our Nutrition Education team since June, serving as our Growing & Garden AmeriCorps VISTA member. Rose has been working with a variety of our Nutrition Education programs — including Healthy Foods, Healthy Families; Farm to Senior; and Farm to School — bringing food literacy, cooking and nutrition education, and local food tastings to the community.
Rose has also worked to design, develop, and improve a six-week garden program curriculum that debuted this past summer at the Pawtucket Boys & Girls Club. Gardening is a gateway for students to reconnect with nature through hands-on learning. Lessons can incorporate science, math, history, and literature, to engage students with the outdoors, help them understand how their food is grown, and offer opportunities to try new fruits and veggies they might not have access to at home. “During the summer garden program that I piloted at the Boys & Girls Club, I had about 75 kids throughout the three programs,” Rose recounts. “And the awesome thing is…100 percent of them tried at least one new vegetable during our time together, which is incredible!”
Trying new vegetables was not the only impact Rose had on the kids at the Pawtucket Boys & Girls Club. Rose went back several weeks after the program to check up on the garden and prepare for another program that would begin soon. As she walked through the halls, several kids from the gardening program noticed her and were so excited to learn she’d be coming back for another program, they signed up because she’d be there!
The enthusiasm Rose brings to her service was, and is, infectious to those kids and all the people Rose and her programming reaches. “I serve because everyone has the basic human right to access safe and healthy food,” shared Rose. We are proud that Rose serves at Farm Fresh RI and we look forward to the continued innovation and creativity she’ll bring our Nutrition Education team.
Meet Liesl Miller
Liesl is a native of New Hampshire, where she also attended Keene State College and received a degree in English. She grew up in a small town passionate about community service, and that passion has become a natural part of her life’s ambition moving forward. She spent several years working on a family-owned berry farm in Southern New Hampshire and that experience, among others, greatly interested her — motivating her to support and advocate for locally grown food.
Liesl found her way to Rhode Island soon after graduating college and started her service with Farm Fresh RI in September 2018 where she serves as our Food Literacy AmeriCorps VISTA member. Her interests and knowledge of nutrition education and farming combine to make Liesl a perfect addition to our Nutrition Education team. She has been working with our Farm to School and Farm to Senior programs, expanding and improving our cooking education and nutrition education curriculums. Additionally, she is developing assessments and collecting data related to food service and sourcing in school districts statewide to learn more about how Rhode Island schools are sourcing their food.
She is excited about learning from, helping, and experiencing the local food community. Liesl recalled a funny story from a program series that took place at the Pawtucket Boys & Girls Club recently, where they kids were learning about photosynthesis and how plants get their energy and “food” from the sun. “One of the kids said that Farm Fresh RI should be called ‘Sun Fresh RI’ because the sun feeds the plants.” These little conversations and funny anecdotes remind Liesl how much this work is impacting the kids as they learn more about the world and food around them.
“Having a job to go to everyday that is fun, but also feels like I’m doing important work is extremely rewarding.” Liesl said. She has enjoyed her time with Farm Fresh RI so far and is eager to improve food literacy across Rhode Island during the rest of her year of service. We are just as eager and excited to have Liesl at Farm Fresh RI and look forward to the insights she brings our Nutrition Education team.
What’s AmeriCorps VISTA?
The AmeriCorps VISTA program is one of three branches of a network of national service programs that work to improve lives and foster civic engagement. AmeriCorps VISTA members specifically help to build capacity in nonprofit organizations and public agencies that work to alleviate poverty all across the country. AmeriCorps VISTA members serve full time for one-year terms to more effectively generate the commitment of private sector resources, encourage volunteer service at the local level, and empower individuals and communities. More than 75,000 Americans across the country participate in AmeriCorps each year. Learn more.