Pellissippi State, community partners team up for ‘Good Food For All’

3 people around some vegetables.
Pellissippi State Community College students, from left, Juls Jackson, Roxmin Lakhani and Cindy Lozano help harvest food at the Pond Gap Elementary School community garden. Pellissippi State founded the garden in 2013.

This fall, Pellissippi State Community College begins a year of collaboration with five area partners working on community school support and food access outreach projects.

The college’s Service-Learning program, with support from the Sustainable Campus Initiative, kicks off the “Good Food For All” campaign during Civic Engagement Week, Sept. 10-17.

“This project is upping the ante on Pellissippi State’s connections to the community and our outreach into poverty alleviation and education efforts outside our campuses,” said Annie Gray, Service-Learning coordinator.

“We will be working to create awareness of East Tennessee challenges to food security and good nutrition. Through these projects, we’ll connect Pellissippi State students and employees with community service opportunities. Together, we’ll support volunteer programming and nutrition initiatives in Knoxville’s new community schools—initiatives that are already under way to combat food security issues.”

During Civic Engagement Week, Pellissippi State will host events and speakers tied in to food access, sustainability, and community service. The week will include lectures and skill sharing on food security, organic gardening, permaculture, and careers in sustainability, food, agriculture, and human sciences. There will be harvesting events and speakers on topics as varied as Knoxville’s food scene and the agrarian heritage of the United States.

“We want to showcase opportunities for service in ways that relate to food, like community gardens, and stoke students’ fire for education as we spotlight career paths in sustainability, local food and agriculture, nutrition education, human sciences, and more,” Gray said.

But Civic Engagement Week is just the beginning.

Good Food For All continues throughout the year through the work of five AmeriCorps VISTA volunteers, funded by a grant from the Corporation for National and Community Service.

The VISTA volunteers will work at five area sites in poverty alleviation projects as they relate to food access and nutritional awareness. Elias Attea will work with Pond Gap Elementary, a participant in the University-Assisted Community Schools Program; Nicole Lewis, with Knoxville’s Great Schools Partnership; Caley Hyatt, with Knoxville-Knox County’s Food Policy Council; Jeremy Roberts, with the University of Tennessee-Tennessee State University Extension-Knox County; and Jennifer Hurst, with Second Harvest Food Bank of East Tennessee. 

“Food is a great place to start with the college’s poverty alleviation outreach projects,” said Gray, “because it is common ground we all share: we all need food, we all understand food. Sharing more knowledge about food gives people more power over their food supply; this bridges socioeconomic and demographic differences. There are a lot of community outreach and academic opportunities here.”

Through the CNCS grant, Pellissippi State will pay for one AmeriCorps VISTA volunteer’s time for the year. The five community partners will donate a portion of the funding for the four additional VISTA workers, and CNCS will cover the rest. VISTA volunteers are paid at the poverty level during their year of service.

The community partnerships of Good Food For All are building on the foundation of Pellissippi State’s community garden at Pond Gap Elementary School. The garden has been used to grow food for the community, has served as an educational tool for the schoolchildren at Pond Gap and has been a place for Pellissippi State students to volunteer time in service. 

AmeriCorps VISTA was founded in 1965 as a national service program dedicated to fighting poverty. Pellissippi State’s Service-Learning program allows students and faculty to integrate meaningful community service and reflection with more traditional learning experiences, with the underlying goals of teaching civic responsibility and strengthening communities. 

For more information about Pellissippi State or the Service-Learning program, visit www.pstcc.edu/service-learning/ or call (865) 694-6400.