A Sustainable Future by Eddie Oliver, Gleaners Food Bank

May 20, 2013

Eddie OliverThe Child Hunger Corps is a national service program designed to increase the capacity and capability of food banks to execute programs targeted towards the alleviation of child hunger. The objective of the program is to increase the number of nutritious snacks and meals served to children in need in local communities across the country. The Child Hunger Corps initiative is sponsored by the ConAgra Foods Foundation.

In August 2012, the third cohort of 9 new Corps members were placed at Feeding America member food banks, bringing the current total to 20 Child Hunger Corps members working at food banks across the country. This post is by second cohort member Edward Oliver, Child Hunger Corps member at the Gleaners Food Bank of Indiana.

A few weeks ago, Cohort 2 attended its final training, focused on tools for program documentation, sustainability, and professional development. In the few months leading up to our Phase 3 training, I felt mixed emotions about what this time would ultimately mean.

I was excited and anxious to learn how to better sustain our summer feeding program, which I had worked so hard to build for Gleaners from the ground up. After all, sustainability is one of the more difficult questions in the non-profit sector and capacity-building is the overarching purpose of the Child Hunger Corps program. What will have been the point of our time as a Corps member if our program expansions, start-ups, improvements, etc. do not last? While I looked forward to the training as a learning opportunity, I felt increasingly nostalgic and forlorn because I feared that this would be the last time that our cohort would gather in one place.

The final day of training, after we had done all our technical learning, we gathered in a circle on the floor to reflect. We shared our achievements, personal goals, and praises for the group as a whole. It was incredibly moving for me to experience the genuine sense of accomplishment and pride we shared with each other.

In my, albeit limited, experience, love of this kind is rare among co-workers. I never felt more fortunate to be a part of Cohort 2 than I did in that moment, and it reminded me that there has undoubtedly been a greater purpose to our work than our ability to send our programs off into a steady and unwavering future.

Phase 3 training signaled the final stretch of a remarkable journey that we have all undertaken together, though hundreds of miles apart. My time as a member of Cohort 2 has affirmed the strength of connectedness and the importance of surrounding one's self with good people working for positive change.

Of course, we all want our work to live on. However, I know that regardless of how "sustainable" our programs are, our service will never be in vain.While ensuring that children in this country grow healthy, we ended up fostering the growth of each other as leaders, advocates, and change makers. In the end, what is more sustainable than that?

Edward Oliver speaks with Janet Gibbs, Feeding America chief financial officer, about his corps member work in Indiana.


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