Americorps VISTA members work in Ohio communities to fight hunger and poverty, in exchange for small stipends they can use for education. (Ohio Association of Foodbanks)
Ohio’s largest hunger-fighting network says it is deeply concerned about the potential impacts of President Trump’s federal budget outline.
The lights would be shut off at 19 federal agencies, including the Corporation for National and Community Service, which runs AmeriCorps VISTA in Ohio. Maureen Allen, who oversees the program for the Ohio Association of Foodbanks, said VISTA members work on programs that fight hunger and poverty, including summer meal service for children and teens.
“The sites that request those resources have said unequivocally that they could not run these summer feeding programs without the help of the summer VISTA members,” she said. “So, they would not be able to reach as many children, they would not be able to operate as many sites, especially in the rural areas. So if they had to close down some of those sites, those children would be going hungry.”
Trump’s proposal, released Thursday, called for $54 billion to be slashed from parts of programs and other areas of government to counterbalance a boost in military spending.
VISTA members in Ohio work on projects that foster community change, said Allen, from developing nutrition education for low-income families to mapping food deserts and social-service capacity for counties. She added that it’s a win-win for the communities and VISTA members.
“They make a very modest living allowance and, at the end of their service term, they get the education award,” she said. “They can use that to pay off student-loan debt or go back to school, and pursue higher education. So, it’s a very low-cost program that has a three-to-one return for the community.”
Trump’s budget blueprint also would eliminate the Community Services Block Grant, the main source of funding for Community Action Agencies. Allen said these are among the few places where struggling rural Ohioans can get basic assistance with food, shelter and other resources.