VISTA Spotlight: Tatiana Arturo

January 2, 2020

If you’ve ever wondered why someone decides to commit to a year of service in North Carolina, you’re in the right place.  Since 2003, NC Campus Compact has sponsored over 200 individuals who have served as AmeriCorps VISTA members across the state.  In this VISTA Spotlight series, you will meet our current cohort of NC Afterschool Corps and NC Hunger Corps members, learn what led them to national service, and find out where they are serving and what activities they are engaged in during their year.

It is our pleasure to introduce you to NC Hunger Corps member Tatiana Arturo. Tatiana started her service year in February 2019 and serves at Warren Wilson College and Bounty and Soul in the greater Asheville, NC region.  Tatiana is in the final months of her service year and we are ever grateful for all she has contributed as a VISTA member.

Tell us a little about yourself and what you were up to before becoming an AmeriCorps VISTA member.

I was living in Asheville, North Carolina and recently completed my Graduate Dietetic program to become a Registered Dietitian. I’m currently enrolled at Lenoir-Rhyne University to earn my MS in Sustainability, and I’m continually exploring how our system needs to change in order to meet the needs of people and our environment. My passion for holistic well-being and environmental health aligns with Bounty & Soul’s mission, which is what drew me to become a Hunger Corps VISTA.

Tell us a little about your host sites and how their mission aligns with your role as a Hunger Corps VISTA.

It is an honor to be a part of Warren Wilson College and Bounty & Soul’s team to help increase access to nutritious foods in Buncombe County.

Warren Wilson College is a liberal arts college grounded in social responsibility. They strive to connect students with meaningful learning opportunities both in the classroom and off campus with their community partners. At Warren Wilson College, I work with the Center for Community Engagement team to connect faculty and students to community partners specific to their interests. Many of these opportunities are related to organizations that focus on nutrition, food systems, food equity which all support increased food access. I have also initiated a seasonal food support table on campus to support over 200 students who do not have adequate access to food on campus during academic breaks.

Bounty & Soul is a non-profit, health and wellness organization that strives to connect people with food, education, and each other. Every week, our community sets up fresh produce markets where everyone can receive fresh foods at no cost. Before starting our markets, there are opportunities to attend a yoga class, health and wellness class, cooking demo, and children’s activities, also at no cost. At Bounty & Soul, I manage the Farmers Alliance Program, which is a new initiative to build our local food partnerships and explore ways to support local growers through volunteer support, marketing and purchasing of B-grade produce. Bounty & Soul’s holistic values on health has created a learning environment that promotes healing where relationships with one another continue to blossom.

What sustainability-related projects or ideas have you started at your host sites?

Sustainability has been a buzz word that holds a lot of meanings and can often distract people from addressing root cause issues and analyzing all facets of well-being. My definition of sustainability is an on-going process of co-creating a world where we all flourish. When analyzing some root cause issues of our food waste crisis some things that came up include environmental racism, gender inequities, standards of living based on entitlement, lack of value of food, disconnection from production and food justice, lack of education for children and adults, and false division between corporate governments and people. Navigating these heavy topics can be challenging and overwhelming, however, taking small steps and bringing these topics into conversation with your team and community is key.

One example of a small step in the right direction is a project I have been working on at Bounty & Soul called the Farmers Alliance Program. Our current model of rescuing over 12,000 pounds of fresh produce from grocery stores helps to minimize food waste sent to the landfills but can also enable grocery stores to continue to waste food that is in great condition. We also glean fields for “imperfect” produce which helps clean the fields and reduce emissions but does not pay the farmer for their hard work for growing the food. The Farmers Alliance Program seeks to shift our model to directly impact our local economy by paying local farmers for their B-grade produce (produce that is not suitable for retail due to strict cosmetic standards). We are very intentional about acknowledging our local growers at our markets and celebrating and honoring food in our community.

What new skills have you learned through this experience so far?

Through my role as a Hunger Corps VISTA, I have been able to coordinate and plan 3 events: Bounty & Soul’s UGrow Dig Day Festival, Warren Wilson College’s Empty Bowls Benefit Dinner, and the regional Food Waste Solutions Summit. Previously, I only had experience coordinating small events on campus while I was an undergraduate student. Each event came with their own challenges and thankfully alongside a strong team, they were all a success! Specifically, through coordinating the Empty Bowls dinner, I worked with a student planning committee which allowed me to better understand how to train freshmen students how to collaborate with partner organizations to secure donations and teach other event planning logistics.

NC Campus Compact VISTA members commit to a year of service through the NC Hunger Corps or the NC Afterschool Corps.  For more information about our VISTA program, please visit https://www.nccampuscompact.org/our-work/americorps-vista/ or contact Erin Odoyo at eodoyo{at}elon{dot}edu.