AmeriCorps/Vista Budget Cuts Could Impact Ohio Food Banks
Tuesday, August 22, 2023
Lawmakers in Congress want to slash by half funding for the nation's AmeriCorps programs. Ohio groups opposed to that move say it would have wide-ranging effects for places like food banks. The AmeriCorps budget would dwindle to around $660 million for fiscal year 2024.
Matthew Jackson, volunteer experience manager with the Greater Cleveland Food Bank, said he started out as a Vista volunteer more than a decade ago, after graduating from Kent State. When a full-time position on the food bank's outreach team opened up, he applied and got the job.
"Since then, I've been a member of the food bank team, so it really helped me grow right into my current role at the food bank," he explained.
The group Voices for National Service argues the cuts would also affect the American Red Cross, Boys and Girls Clubs, Habitat for Humanity, and other community-based organizations who rely on AmeriCorps funding and volunteers.
Maureen Allen, Ohio Association of Foodbanks Director of Community Services, said the proposal also includes completely eliminating the National Service Trust, a fund that has historically helped recent college graduates pay off debt.
"One of the additional benefits upon successfully completing their term is they're given an Education Award," she said. "And they can use that either for tuition at any Title 4 school, or towards federal student loans."
Jackson added many Ohio households that do not have enough food do not quality for federal assistance programs like SNAP. He says AmeriCorps volunteers help ensure that communities have access to hot meals, food boxes and well-stocked pantries.
"We just wouldn't be able to expand as rapidly as we need to, to meet more and more of the increasing demand in our area," Jackson continued.
According to Feeding America, food insecurity is a reality for more than 1 million Ohioans, and is on the rise due to cuts in funding for SNAP benefits and ongoing inflation.
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