Kaitie graduated in 2011 with a BA in Political Science. She took the fall 2010 Action Research Seminar which analyzed the infrastructure of Western Avenue Community Center (WACC). Kaitie’s project focused on the food pantry and she continued her work through the generous support of the Weir Fellowship in the spring of 2011.
Hill graduated in 2012 with a BA in Accounting. He took part in the ARC/State Farm Insurance Cos. Community Partnership Program in the summer of 2012. His project for the fellowship involved financial literacy for not-for-profits. He plans to hold seminars with Western Avenue’s program administrators on budget efficiency. “These meetings will offer a chance to get together and discuss topics such as allocation, budget structures and endowments,” said Hill. “It will be an informal setting to talk about financial issues.” Hill will use his Weir fellowship funds to update the accounting software at Western Avenue, and train employees to use it.
WACC is located on the Westside of Bloomington in a “food desert.” According to the USDA:
Food deserts are defined as urban neighborhoods and rural towns without ready access to fresh, healthy, and affordable food. Instead of supermarkets and grocery stores, these communities may have no food access or are served only by fast food restaurants and convenience stores that offer few healthy, affordable food options. The lack of access contributes to a poor diet and can lead to higher levels of obesity and other diet-related diseases, such as diabetes and heart disease.
The WACC food pantry serves the community Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday from 1-3pm as long as there is food to be distributed. When the food runs out, the pantry closes for the week. They rely on donations to keep the pantry stocked. Kaitie understood the great need for a food pantry and wanted to help WACC streamline its operation.
Kaitie worked on several projects throughout her fellowship. She put all the pantry service records into an electronic format. People who came to the food pantry had to fill out paperwork and show identification with every visit. Kaitie entered data into an excel spreadsheet which made it much easier to track food pantry service. She also recognized an opportunity to connect food pantry clients with the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP). The food pantry is located in the space adjacent to the WACC computer lab. Kaitie was able to help families – who were clearly facing food insecurity issues – with a resource that would be able to help. Kaitie also secured a national grant from Sodexho to host a large food drive on Global Youth Service Day. She was able to work with the youth volunteers at WACC to implement the service project.
Kaitie says: “My ARC experience with the WACC food pantry completely changed the direction of my life. After leaving IWU I decided to pursue a career in non-profits, specifically facing the issues of food insecurity and homelessness. Not only did ARC give me the professional tools I needed to understand and thrive in the world of non-profits, but it also changed my emotional understanding of the importance of community.” Kaitie lives in Chicago now and continues to volunteer with a food pantry in Logan Square. She plans to attend graduate school for a degree in non-profit management.
For more information: http://www.iwu.edu/news/2011/stn_WeirFellows_00111.html