Last month U.S. Sen. Martin Heinrich of New Mexico announced that Earth Care, a Santa Fe-based nonprofit, will receive a $191,034 grant award from the Corporation for National Community Service for its 2014–2015 Food Cadre AmeriCorps Program. The grant will support 27 AmeriCorps national service-member positions. Earth Care is now accepting applications for the positions, which range from 300-hour internships to full-time placements for 11 months. Their work will focus on increasing access to healthful foods for low-income families, health education and environmental stewardship.
Food insecurity in the County of Santa Fe is higher than the national average. AmeriCorps member activities will include teaching cooking in the public schools with Cooking with Kids, coordinating a commercial composting pilot with Reunity Resources, facilitating a healthy lifestyles task force on the south side of town with La Familia, and analyzing the city’s use of water, energy and waste for the Sustainable Santa Fe Commission’s community scorecard.
Earth Care’s programs have provided youth-development activities while bolstering sustainable food, farming and nutrition in the Santa Fe community. In a context where the economic downturn has meant reduced resources for schools and the nonprofit sector, collaboration has become essential. For this reason, Earth Care pursued federal funding and launched the AmeriCorps Cadre to increase the impact of a dozen partner organizations and schools. Earth Care places its members in neighborhoods that have high rates of poverty, food insecurity, health issues and a lack of youth services. Program participants include the Food Depot, Adelante Program for Homeless Youth & Families, La Familia’s REACH Program, the city of Santa Fe’s Sustainability Program, Four Bridges Permaculture Institute, United World College’s Agroecology Research Center, Zona del Sol, Reunity Resources, the New Mexico Land Conservancy and four public schools.
“Our community is struggling with high-school dropout rates, ‘brain-drain’ of young professionals, food insecurity, poverty and a host of other issue. But there is so much great work taking place, and we have some fantastic community organizations and leaders. We’ve received AmeriCorps funding for the last four years from the New Mexico Commission on Community Volunteerism, but we are thrilled and honored to have had our program chosen at the national level from a very competitive pool of applications. It means that what we are doing here on the ground in Santa Fe is being seen as an effective model that others might learn from,” said Earth Care’s director, Bianca Sopoci-Belknap.
In announcing the awards, Sen. Heinrich said, “National service is a critical and cost-effective approach to solving problems. It helps organizations expand their reach and impact, engages citizens and brings communities together. And there are lifelong benefits. Serving as an AmeriCorps volunteer taught me that there is no venture more rewarding than working to improve the lives of those around us.Only the most exceptional proposals are funded, and I am especially proud of these organizations and the work they are doing for New Mexico communities.”
This year marks the 20th anniversary of AmeriCorps. Over the past two decades, more than 830,000 men and women have served in the program, providing more than one billion hours of service to address critical challenges. The new round of grant funds will support more than 230 AmeriCorps members, who will serve New Mexico communities through four local organizations over the coming year.
AmeriCorps Grant Funding Awards:
- City of Albuquerque “Running Start for Careers” initiative: $265,946 for 20 AmeriCorps members to provide academic tutoring, career coaching and financial education to 9th-through-12th grade students. The program will serve high schools in and around Albuquerque.
- Rocky Mountain Youth Corps AmeriCorps: $452,568for 115 AmeriCorps members to receive weekly training and on-the-job experience in land restoration and energy efficiency, as well as leverage community volunteers engaged in service days geared to support environmental stewardship projects across northern New Mexico.
- Earth Care International: $191,034 for 27 AmeriCorps members to increase access to healthful foods to low-income families, provide food and health education and environmental stewardship, resulting in increased food security in Santa Fe.
- Teach for America, New Mexico: $56,000for 70 AmeriCorps members to teach grades K-12 in low-income, predominantly Hispanic and Native American communities in New Mexico.