Service brings people together and bridges divides, and that’s what AmeriCorps members, volunteers, and programs do every day. In celebration of this year’s AmeriCorps Week, we’d like to tell you a little bit about our AmeriCorps VISTA, Rachel Brunot.

Since beginning her service term in June 2021, Rachel has accomplished many things. She has assisted in drafting and editing sections in 10 different grants focused on increasing healthy food access, totaling $660,415. Of these 7 grants, 4 have thus far been approved, totaling $354,790 in funds contributing to ACEnet’s work in healthy food access!

Rachel has collaborated with ACEnet’s Appalachian Accessible Food Network (AAFN) partners Rural Action & Community Food Initiatives since she began her service term at ACEnet.

Currently, she is working with AAFN Food Access Partners Coordinator Devra Roberts to re-launch Root to Seed, a podcast that will highlight stories of the local food system in southeast Ohio. Rachel is also the chair of the Athens Farmers Market 50th Anniversary Planning Committee, where she coordinates meetings with market staff and members to plan special events and promotions to celebrate the market’s history in the upcoming season.

Rachel worked with Rural Action summer VISTAs on an AAFN food access research and mapping project, creating a list of various reliable sources of statistics and information on food access at the state and county level, and mapping program impacts. After the summer VISTAs finished their terms, she continued this project independently, connecting it with material from a cartography course at Ohio University to ultimately create an AAFN impact map.

She has also written multiple articles on AAFN programs that have been published in the Athens News!

What has been your favorite thing about being a VISTA?

My favorite thing about being a VISTA is that I get to try a little bit of everything in the world of nonprofit work. Since starting my term, I’ve gotten to try a lot of new things – writing news articles about food access programs, traveling around Ohio to talk to farmers, researching and writing grant applications to fund new and existing programs, facilitating conversations with farmers market staff and members, creating social media and blog posts to boost engagement, learning how to edit audio for a podcast, and more. I’ve definitely gained a lot of skills and knowledge about my interests that will be really beneficial for whatever I decide to do next.

Why did you join AmeriCorps?

I joined AmeriCorps because when I graduated from Ohio State I knew I wanted to work in the nonprofit sector. I didn’t know what kind of nonprofit I wanted to work at, or where I wanted to live, so I started by browsing the AmeriCorps VISTA positions to help narrow down my interests. AmeriCorps seemed like a great way to gain some entry level experience and try something out of my comfort zone for a year. I have definitely achieved both of those objectives – I feel a lot more confident in my job search for my next position, and moving by myself to a new city was a rewarding challenge.

What are your future plans after AmeriCorps?

After my service year ends I plan to continue working in the nonprofit sector with a focus on food and sustainable agriculture. I’ve become very interested in food and agriculture while working at ACEnet, so I’m looking for my next job to continue building on my work here with local food systems. I’m also excited to try out some more hands-on work in agriculture and maybe even start my own farm one day. At the end of my term I will be moving to Dayton, Ohio, where I am excited to get to know the community and start a vegetable garden on my apartment balcony.