AmeriCorps VISTA Creating Oasis in Baltimore ‘Food Desert’

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By: 
Dana Forde

As Christina Bodison navigated a demanding course load at Howard University, the former biology major actively searched for ways to be of service to others.  First, she mentored high school students during an alternative spring break program in Detroit. Then, she researched HIV, AIDS, and the socioeconomic factors that bar access to health care. All of this compelled Christina to join the AmeriCorps VISTA program and the fight against poverty.

“I was presented with so many opportunities that allowed me to see the importance of service,” she said. “I learned about giving back to the community I live in.”

Christina Bodison is an AmeriCorps VISTA serving in Baltimore, MD, who helps city residents living in "food deserts" connect to healthy and affordable food.

Now Christina is urging others to do the same.

As an AmeriCorps VISTA member and volunteer coordinator for the Baltimarket “Virtual Supermarket” Program, Christina is finding new ways to link residents to healthy and affordable food. Baltimoreans who live in “food deserts” can order groceries online—either from home or by visiting their local library, school, or senior/disabled housing site.

Christina manages a team of community volunteers, known as neighborhood food advocates, who help shoppers submit and pick up their orders. Through this Baltimore City Health Department initiative, she hopes to raise awareness about the link between poverty and health.

“Some people don’t have a car to get to a supermarket. Or they have to catch two to three buses to get there,” said Christina. “This program essentially eliminates those barriers.” 

In addition to her AmeriCorps VISTA and undergraduate experiences, Christina’s parents solidified her interest in service. Her mother lived in Ghana, West Africa, during an appointment with the Peace Corps and her father served in the U.S. Air Force for more than two decades.

“My parents shaped my expectations of what service could be,” Christina added.

And enhancing expectations in underserved communities is the mantra she plans to follow in her next venture—medical school. The study of medicine, Christina believes, parallels the fight against poverty.

“Being able to better understand how poverty impacts the lives of individuals helps us better understand the intersection between health, nutrition, and education,” she said.

The Corporation for National and Community Service is celebrating the 20th anniversary of AmeriCorps. The AmeriCorps VISTA program was founded as Volunteers in Service to America in 1965 and designed specifically to fight poverty in America. In 1993, VISTA was incorporated into the AmeriCorps network of programs. For more information about AmeriCorps' 20th anniversary, please visit the AmeriCorps 20th Anniversary Resource Center.

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