AmeriCorps VISTA Jonique Lyles Reflects on her Alliance Experience

June 23, 2021

Jonique Lyles

AmeriCorps VISTA Jonique Lyles

Across the nation I have witnessed the strength, tenacity and innovation of many working to fight food insecurity. At a time when COVID-19 hit local communities, joining the Alliance to End Hunger as an AmeriCorps VISTA was an experience for which I am forever grateful.

As food insecurity hit many, it was empowering to be intentional about the intersectional concerns faced by individuals and families. During my time I was able to coordinate conversations that created space for mental health, racial equity, new community resources, innovative food delivery programs, and supporting black farmers. As the Hunger Free Communities Associate, it was empowering to coordinate such conversation for our cross-sector anti-hunger coalitions and to even pass along resources of support for capacity efforts in programming.

Despite the sobering news of the hunger crisis created by the pandemic, I was able to highlight the great success of various programs like the HFC Virtual summit reaching increased accessibility and a larger audience, the national expansion of the Meals on Wheels for Kids program by Tampa Bay Network to End Hunger, and innovative food delivery and distribution sites with Second Harvest Food Bank of Northeast Tennessee and Alabama Childhood Food Solutions.

I am happy to say I was able to support the Hunger Free Communities Network by conducting research, planning webinars and event, curating educational resources and developing a quarterly newsletter.  I was even able to secure new members of the Hunger Free Community Network throughout my service. In all, my time led to increased resources and convenings for our network –– all while simultaneously uplifting the voices of our Advisory Council members in recognition of the importance of leading with people who have lived expertise.

In a time when many VISTA members worked virtually, having the support of my supervisor, AmeriCorps VISTA leader and Anti-Hunger Cohort at Hunger Free America was encouraging as we worked through various trials and even celebrated moments of success. Despite various circumstances we were able to connect, support and share resources to continue our efforts in food security across the country.

To end, I am truly inspired by the diligence, innovation and perseverance of leaders and volunteers in anti-hunger work. Moreover, in response to the pandemic it was encouraging to see the additional relief from federal programs that supported access, resources and food for our local individuals, families and communities. To have been an extra hand in fighting food insecurity is an honor and something I plan to always continue.