Christina Bodison is serving her AmeriCorps VISTA year as the Neighborhood Food Advocate with the Baltimore City Department of Health, where her efforts provide those living in “food deserts” with healthy and convenient food selections.
The environment has a direct influence on the direction of our lives. This statement relates to my diverse background and involvement in service. My father served 24 years in the United States Air Force and his military career allowed me to live in California, Turkey, New Mexico, and South Carolina. Despite our frequent change in address, I was able to participate in different organizations that gave me the opportunity to serve the community I lived in. My involvement with Girl Scouts in Turkey and New Mexico, and involvement with Habitat for Humanity and church outreach organizations in South Carolina, has subsequently set the stage for years of continued service throughout my life.
During my undergraduate career at Howard University, I was presented with various opportunities that allowed me to see the importance of service to others in the community. The exposure I experienced during my college years coupled with the examples set by my parents led me to seek service projects with capacity building opportunities. In addition, my desires for a rewarding challenge illustrate my reasons for applying to the AmeriCorps VISTA program.
My passion to serve is fueled by my desire to help foster healthier communities in urban areas. After receiving my Bachelors Degree in Biology, I decided to further my education by obtaining a Post-Baccalaureate Certificate in Health Studies at Cornell University. Following the completion of education in areas that would be beneficial to my area of service, I began to look for service work that involved health and nutrition components on a community based level.
During my search, I was fortunate enough to stumble across the AmeriCorps VISTA position at the Baltimore City Health Department. The position involved working with the growing Baltimarket Program, whose mission is to improve the health of Baltimore City residents by increasing access to healthy and affordable foods. The Baltimarket Program is comprised of two different components, a Virtual Supermarket Program (VSP) and Neighborhood Food Advocates (NFA). These components work to combat the numerous food desert communities that many Baltimore City residents reside in.
As Volunteer Coordinator of the NFA initiative I have had the opportunity to cultivate relationships with residents living in the communities that we serve. Each NFA works at the site by assisting community members in the ordering and delivery of groceries, in addition to providing other methods to increase community access to healthier food options. As I was out helping at one of the Senior Home sites, a VSP customer mentioned that without this program, “I wouldn’t eat. This is really all I have”. His statement allowed me to realize the necessary and helpful service the Baltimarket program is providing to Baltimore residents.
As I continue my service year, I hope to recruit more NFAs to support the Virtual Supermarket Program and help increase food access to Baltimore City residents. I also hope to further develop my professional skills of leadership and partnership building as I work to build the sustainability of the Baltimarket Program!