By Kirstin Hoagland, Harney County VISTA
I didn’t know what to expect my first VISTA year, but with only a few months left, I can say it has been an opportunity I will not forget. I am completing my service year in Harney County at the local health department. As a person who had never previously been to Oregon, Burns wasn’t quite what I had imagined.
However, serving in a small, rural community, has allowed me to work with a wide range of community partners and residents, and has personally made me appreciate simplicity and the beauty of the great outdoors. My projects so far have included radon and arsenic testing, accreditation projects, positive youth events, and my favorite, the Harvest Share Project.
Harney County is considered a food desert. Some residents have to travel an hour or two to get to the nearest grocery store. The Harvest Share Project is through the Oregon Food Bank with Burns being served by the Southeast region in Ontario. Beginning this past summer, the Oregon Food Bank drove their distribution truck to Crane and Burns, delivering fresh fruits, vegetables and bread, monthly. This was free to everyone in the community; there were no income requirements or qualifications. When it began, only a few individuals showed up, but by fall, the parking lots were full in anticipation of the delivery. I would estimate approximately 50 or more families each month were benefiting from this project by the last distribution of the year.
Helping community members fill their bags with fresh produce, seeing their excitement and hearing their appreciation for this project was incredibly rewarding and humbling. The great news is the Oregon Food Bank plans on continuing this project in Harney County again in summer 2014!
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