Introducing our 2017-2018 Missouri Healthy Food AmeriCorps Members!
MRCN has found ten dedicated, enthusiastic people to become the Healthy Food Program’s newest AmeriCorps members!
Interested in becoming a member? Visit our prospective AmeriCorps page to learn more and apply for the Missouri Healthy Food AmeriCorps Program 2018-2019.
Improving Lives through Healthy Food!
AmeriCorps members educate students about growing, harvesting, and eating healthy food, as well as increase production & access to healthy locally grown food. MRCN enrolls these AmeriCorps members and then sends them to work for local food nonprofits in mid-Missouri.
You can meet our current AmeriCorps partners and view their work below.
MRCN’s Past AmeriCorps Members
Luke Dietterle: Southern Boone Learning Garden’s Outdoor Classroom Associate A resident of mid-MO since 2008, Luke brings a passion for food and food justice to Ashland, MO from his roots in Frankfort, IL. Both of his parents are returned Peace Corps volunteers, and both of his sisters are either alums of, or currently part of, Teach for America – he is the last of his family to join the national service Corps. When not working in the garden he can be found cooking up a storm in the kitchen or wading through creeks looking for fossils with his girlfriend Katie and his dog Peaches.
Learn more about Luke’s work at Southern Boone’s website.
Clint Brinkley: Southern Boone Learning Garden’s Outdoor Classroom Associate For the last several years I’ve been very interested in environmental awareness, food justice, and public service. I explored different adventures such as practicing organic gardening living on a small farmstead, traveling for national service with AmeriCorps NCCC, and am now very excited to work with the Southern Boone Learning Garden to help educate children about the food cycle and healthy eating.
Curious about what Clint does with SBLG? Click here for more information!
Tony DeMarco: CCUA’s Opportunities Garden Program Associate Tony comes to Columbia, MO from the Twin Cities. He learned agricultural skills at the Grange Farm School in Willits, CA while serving in AmeriCorps National Civilian Community Corps (NCCC) and wants to farm in urban spaces to promote food justice and community building. Tony is serving with CCUA in the Opportunity Gardens program. This provides garden implementation and mentoring to citizens living with low income in Columbia and demonstrates to everyone that food is good.
To see more of Tony’s work, visit CCUA’s web site.
Kyle Holland: CCUA’s Urban Farm Education Associate Kyle is joining the Columbia AmeriCorps team with a diverse background in teaching and a passion for sustainable urban agriculture. After traveling the world, volunteering on multiple sustainable farms and teaching English abroad, Kyle decided to give the Midwest a try and has found his niche as the Urban Farm Associate. He looks forward to this year with AmeriCorps and hopes to help increase others’ interests in urban farming.
Visit columbiaurbanag.org for more information on Kyle’s project.
Raleigh Taylor: CCUA’s Outdoor Classroom Educator Raleigh Taylor is CCUA’s Outdoor Classroom Associate. Raleigh grew up in the mid-missouri area and came to Columbia to attend the University of Missouri. She first worked as a volunteer with CCUA in 2014 and fell in love with the program.
Find out more about Raleigh’s work at CCUA here.
Kaitie Adams: EarthDance’s Volunteer Coordinator Kaitie Adams is a Southern Illinois native excited to put down roots in her new community. Over the years Kaitie’s interest in gardening slowly morphed into a large scale research project on the practical and social uses of seeds and mushroom cultures on small scale farms. After receiving her MA in Anthropology, Kaitie spent two months working and living at Mandala Gardens, an organic farm and plant sanctuary where she fell in love with goats and the lived experiences of farm life. As Volunteer Coordinators she’s excited to help EarthDance build a more sustainable and just food landscape in the St. Louis region.
Learn more about Earth Dance & Kaitie’s work at EarthDance’s website
Erica Cunningham: EarthDance’s Healthy Food Educator Erica Cunningham is a native of St. Louis who retuned to her hometown last summer after 23 years. During that time away she lived overseas for 5 years while serving in the U.S. Navy, then settled in San Diego once military service ended. Erica has a background in Information Technology yet shifted her career toward her passions for food in 2004 when she launched a personal chef service in San Diego. She followed her dream of becoming a chef by enrolling in culinary school in San Francisco. Partially through the program she started to experience debilitating pain in her joints that led to a diagnosis of Stills Disease, this illness rendered her with little to no mobility at times. She found nutrition and alternative medicines to be among the tools that helped heal her body. Energized by her new lease on life and wellness she returned to college and studied sustainable agriculture and nutrition in San Diego. Erica has volunteered with several urban and sustainable agriculture projects in San Diego as well as engaging youth in hands-on activities. She earned her degree in Environmental Studies with a concentration in Food Security from San Diego State University. Erica is the Youth Programs Specialist at EarthDance serving as a member with the Missouri Healthy Food Americorps Program and is enthusiastic about cooking and eating food from the farm.
For more about Erica’s work visit her organization’s website.
Kansas City, MO
Micah Wilkins: KCCG’s Outdoor Classroom Associate Born and raised in Kansas City, Micah will be working with Kansas City Community Gardens, a nonprofit that provides garden education and support to low-income communities. Micah will be assisting with some of the nearly 200 gardens that KCCG helped establish in schools throughout Kansas City. After graduating from Warren Wilson College in Asheville, North Carolina, she moved back to her hometown and is excited to be introducing schoolchildren to new vegetables and new ideas.
To learn more about KCCG, visit kccg.org.
Elizabeth Sangree: Outdoor Education Specialist Elizabeth Sangree, hailing from Connecticut, is excited to do her year of service with The Green Thumb Project in Kirksville! She is a Class of 2015 graduate from Bates College in Maine, where she got two degrees in English and Environmental Studies. The Green Thumb’s goals of environmental education in public school systems coupled with gardening in the larger community are an amazing world for her to be a part of! She is most looking forward to working with kids and getting a taste of Midwestern life. Happy 2015-2016, AmeriCorps crew!
More information about Elizabeth’s work with the Green Thumb can be found on their webiste.
Ben Latimer: University Extension-Dent County Community Educator Ben comes to Salem, MO with a degree in engineering and a passion for helping residents of Dent County eat healthy, local food. Before coming to Salem, he cycled across the United States to support affordable housing with a non-profit called Bike & Build. In Dent County he will be helping to develop school gardens and getting residents involved in community gardening.
Learn more about Ben’s project here.
AmeriCorps & VISTA Members Who Paved the Way…
Sarah Cramer: Southern Boone Learning Garden’s AmeriCorps Activities Coordinator After more than a year of working with the Southern Boone Learning Garden as an intern, Garden Club leader, and school-day teacher, Sarah began her year of AmeriCorps service in August of 2014. As SBLG Activities Coordinator, she schedules, plans, and leads garden classes with all of the district’s K-5 students.
Sarah loves all things Missouri, and is always ready to recite the state’s symbols. What’s the state insect, you ask? Why, it’s the honeybee!(She also maintains two hives of these fascinating bugs.)
Learn more about Sarah’s work at Southern Boone’s website.
Andrew Kent: Southern Boone Learning Garden Communications AmeriCorps Andrew comes to Southern Boone all the way from the Pacific Northwest! This Eagle Scout brings with him a newly minted degree in Environmental Science from Portland State University, and an interest in the inquiry method of outdoor education. Andrew enjoys photography, discovering new music, camping, and woodworking. He’s still figuring out this whole Midwest thing, and though he’s generally impressed, he could do without the humidity.
Curious about Andrew’s work? Learn more at Southern Boone’s web page.
Amelia LaMair: One Garden Local Food Initiative VISTA Amelia is the first ever AmeriCorps VISTA to work with One Garden, a small non-profit whose mission is to cultivate and conserve indigenous and non-native plants and disseminate information on their potential benefits. She works with farmers, community groups, food pantries, and schools in order to increase local production and consumption of fresh, healthy foods in and around Ozark County. Some of Amelia’s projects for the year are to establish an educational garden at a local school, facilitate networking among local producers, and coordinate monthly educational talks on sustainable agriculture. Amelia is passionate about growing and raising her own food, and loves to spend time in the woods and on the river. Find out more about what Amelia did at One Garden’s website.
Erin King: Columbia Center for Urban Agriculture Public Relations VISTA Pretty much anything you read from CCUA has passed by Erin’s desk. She manages CCUA’s public relations and visual presence through graphic design, fundraising, event promotion, and social media. One of her major focus areas includes CCUA’s “Planting for the Pantry” fundraiser.
Erin just signed on for her second year as an AmeriCorps VISTA with CCUA, and the organization is delighted to have her return.
To see more of Erin’s work, visit CCUA’s web site.
Steve Riesenburg: CCUA AmeriCorps’s Outdoor Classroom Associate In addition to helping with field trips on the farm, Steve Riesenburg also partners with Slow Food Katy Trail to administer their Harvest of the Month program. After graduation, he followed promises of breakfast tacos and live music to Austin, Texas, where he worked for 2 years as a kindergarten teacher and in the field of water conservation. When not at the farm, he enjoys reading, backpacking, racquet sports, playing games, and occasionally all four at the same time. More information about Steve’s work can be found on CCUA’s web page.
Kelsey Grant: CCUA Urban Farm Education VISTA As an Urban Farm Educator, Kelsey performs tasks for both the education and volunteer departments. Some of her main duties include volunteer recruitment, Pre-K – 12 educational experiences, and adult service learning. After serving last year with AmeriCorps National Civilian Community Corps (NCCC) in Vinton, Iowa, she was ready to continue in service. A project in 2013 sparked Kelsey’s interest in food systems and the non-profit world, and the Columbia Center for Urban Agriculture became the perfect fit! You can find out more about Kelsey’s work at CCUA’s website.
Lori McCurdy: Outdoor Classroom Program Manager Lori McCurdy currently serves as the Outdoor Classroom Manager, helping schools and agencies plan their location’s outdoor learning space, and collaborating with community members and educators at various elementary schools on ways to better integrate nature into the curriculum, into the school yard, and into the daily experience of today’s nature-starved kids. She previously worked with CCUA’s edible landscaping program, consulting clients on ways to improve their landscapes by integrating native plants as well as edibles. When she’s not working, she can be found playing outside with her husband and their two kids.
Interested in learning more about Lori’s work? Visit CCUA’s website.
Ellis Cole: Columbia Farmers Market VISTA Ellis helps the main market manager at Columbia Farmers Market. He assists in set-up, break-down, and day-to-day management of the market. In the summer season, is the main manager of the Thursday market at Forum Christian Church. In addition to these duties, he helps customers keep in touch with the market by updating the weekly newsletter and posting to Facebook and Twitter. Challenges that Ellis is tackling this year will consist of finding new ways to make the children’s educational program more sustainable and obtaining more funding for the Access to Healthy Foods EBT matching program.
More about Ellis’ work can be found on the Columbia Farmers Market page.
Jessica Hill: MRCN’s Public Relations VISTA After graduating from Mizzou with a Sustainable Agriculture degree, Jessica Hill signed on with MRCN’s as the Public Relations VISTA. In her coming year of service Jessica will work to promote the Missouri Local Food Program as a whole while planning and managing service events. Her first service event, the Fresh Food Drive, raised over $1,000 worth of fresh produce for Mizzou’s Tiger Pantry. When Jessica leaves the office, you can find her downtown Columbia promoting upcoming local rap battles or making dinner with friends.
Cynthia DeLeon: Kirksville Green Thumb Outdoor Education Specialist Cynthia joined the Missouri Local Food Program in February, 2014. As the Outdoor Education Specialist for Green Thumb, she will be responsible for sharing lesson plans, recruiting instructors, and modeling methods by which to engage students in food production.
Green Thumb’s mission is to enhance the health and wellness of Northeast Missouri citizens by offering opportunities for garden-based education, service-learning, and social enterprise that promote and strengthen local food systems.
More information about Cynthia’s work with the Green Thumb can be found on their webiste.
Summer Jensen: Green Thumb’s Nutrition Education and Community Programs Coordinator Summer works with fellow Americorps VISTA member, Cynthia De Leon, to create high quality outdoor education programming for students within Kirksville’s R-III School District. Summer focuses on nutrition and outdoor education and implements community outreach events like cooking and horticulture demos and the NEMO Local Farmers Dinner! Summer fell in love with Northeast Missouri six years ago and has since made it her new home. She loves exploring the backwoods of Missouri and reading and working on lessons in her hammock on the cattle farm where she boards.
Ben Utne: Springfield Urban Agriculture Coalition DIRT Program VISTA Ben began organizing SUAC’s DIRT program in August, 2013. DIRT educates community members and schoolchildren about the benefits of producing locally-grown food. At least 10 gardens were planted in Springfield’s R-XII school district. The DIRT Project encourages youth engagement, physical activity, and allows students to take part in the production and consumption of locally grown and sustainably grown foods in their own communities.
You can investigate more of Ben’s projects at the DIRT project’s web page.
Julie Zender: Activities Coordinator for the Southern Boone Learning Gardens In May, 2013, AmeriCorps VISTA member Julie Zender worked to introduce the benefits of community gardens to Ashland’s schools. During her service year, Julie directed a student-based farmer’s market at Ashland Elementary. The kids learned math and economics skills as they earned over $500 in sales at their school. Some students even expanded their produce into Ashland’s own farmer’s market. You can visit the Southern Boone Learning Gardens Facebook page to learn more.
Emily Young: Lincoln University Extension Local Foods Program Assistant Emily helped to manage two projects in Jefferson City: Sprouts and Roots, and the Native Plants Program. Sprouts and Roots continues to improve people’s lives, especially low-income children and seniors, through gardening and nutrition. Emily helped to organize summer camps through Sprouts and Roots that will continue in June and July, 2014. The Native Plants Program promotes the use of native plants as specialty crops to create income for low-income individuals.
To get more details, visit the Lincoln University Extension Native Plants Facebook page.
Christine Baker: Opportunity Gardens VISTA for the Columbia Center for Urban Agriculture During her year of service Christine worked with the Opportunity Gardens: an empowerment program that provides gardening classes, raised beds, tools, and seeds to disadvantaged populations in Columbia, MO. She tirelessly collected data to ensure that CCUA reached the greatest number of low-income people resourcefully.
In summer, 2013, she coordinated a 1000-ft garden that was installed in the Allen Walkway. Many tons of this public housing garden’s produce were donated to the local food pantry.
For more information, visit the CCUA website.
James DeBiasi: Education Coordinator for the Green Thumb Project in Kirksville, MO James arrived on Kirksville’s Green Thumb Project in March, 2013. He was responsible for many activities, particularly those related to students and outdoor education. He created interdisciplinary lesson plans, recruited teachers to instruct their students outside in the gardens, and managed fundraisers. Green Thumb’s mission is to enhance the health and wellness of Northeast Missouri citizens by offering garden-based education, service-learning, and social enterprises.
To find more details on James’ work, you can visit Green Thumb’s website.
Zoe Broder: Healthy Lifestyles Initiative Youth Engagement VISTA When not at work on her title project, the youth engagement guide, Zoe worked in 2013 with other MRCN VISTA partners to promote access to local food. She supported Southern Boone’s Garden Club in Ashland and the Crop Mob in Columbia: a project meant to bring farmers and adult students together. Zoe also organized the Empty Bowls project, partnering with a local 4-H club to raise $2700 for the Access to Healthy Food Program.
Brittany Rush: Activities Coordinator for the Southern Boone Learning Gardens Brittany joined the AmeriCorps VISTA team in August, 2013. Since then, she has worked to integrate community gardens into the lives of Ashland’s school students.
In October Brittany began coordinating volunteer groups to build the town’s newest creations: two handicap-accessible, raised garden beds. These gardens were made possible by a grant through the Missouri River Communities Network, and will be used by students, teachers, and parents.
For more information visit Southern Boone’s website.
Matt Jernigan: Columbia Farmers Market Local Food VISTA Matt is the assistant manager of the Saturday farmers market in Columbia. He oversees setup of the market, coordinates children’s activities, and provides information for customers and vendors. Matt also resurrected Columbia’s Crop Mob: a program connecting farmers with adult volunteers who want to experience farm work and local food.
For people needing the market when it is not in session, Matt operates the Columbia Farmers Market website. This winter he developed an online volunteer sign-up page.
For more on Matt’s work visit CFM’s web page.
Kat Minx: Springfield Urban Agriculture Coalition Outreach Coordinator VISTA Kat began working with SUAC in August 2013. She works with VISTA Ben Utne on the DIRT project, as well as other facets of SUAC’s mission. With Kat’s help, SUAC held their first annual Volunteer Appreciation Dinner in November, 2013, featuring locally catered food and fresh greens from the Urban Roots farm. Kat also helped organize SUAC’s Cocktails and Wellies fundraiser, which drew over 200 people and grossed approximately $20,000. All proceeds supported healthy lifestyles in Springfield through locally-grown food.
Learn more about what Kat did for SUAC at their website.
Interested in AmeriCorps? MRCN is hiring new AmeriCorps volunteers to continue working on local food projects in mid-Missouri. Please check out our listings on the AmeriCorps website or our prospective AmeriCorps page to apply! You can also connect with specific projects by calling MRCN directly at (573)256-260