Reflections from a Summer VISTA Leader: Osha Ogden


During the last weeks of their AmeriCorps Summer VISTA internships, Candace Moore & Osha Ogden have contributed greatly with Roadrunner to enrolling clients to receive SNAP (Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program) benefits. This week, we feature the reflections from Osha Ogden. Thank you, Candace & Osha, for helping us solve hunger across New Mexico!

I was volunteering here at Roadrunner Food Bank in hopes that after four months of job-searching, I could redirect my energy and stop sulking! I needed a purpose. So, I felt pleasantly surprised when the AmeriCorps opportunity presented itself. I always knew that there were others throughout the community suffering like I had. Yet, I didn’t feel like  I could make a difference volunteering, while being a productive single parent at the same time. This opportunity would change my life for the better, by opening my eyes to the value and challenges of programs like AmeriCorps, and the complicated missions of non-profit organizations like Roadrunner Food Bank.

The AmeriCorps VISTA program held true to its mission, mandated by Congress in 1964: “…[to] build permanent infrastructure in non-profit organizations to help them more effectively bring individuals and communities out of poverty.”  Becoming a Summer VISTA helped me to dedicate myself to face challenges the community encounters on a daily basis, including hunger and financial instability. Ultimately, to learn how to effectively implement change through teamwork, networking, and professionalism.

In addition to making a difference, I was compensated for my time through financial support from AmeriCorps. I received a living allowance, plus an Education Award that would help me further my education in the future. Also, any fear of losing my own governmental benefits such as Section 8 rental assistance, food stamps, or cash assistance was allayed by AmeriCorps’ Income Exclusion statement, which excludes income received for my service.

Roadrunner Food Bank requested my assistance to further their missions towards ending hunger in New Mexico by placing me into the SNAP Outreach program. This entailed helping with pantry and mobile food pantry monitors, assisting with grant projects, and other small tasks that help the overall cause. SNAP Outreach helps get the 83,000 New Mexicans that don’t receive food stamps to get a head start on the application process. Overall, the average SNAP recipient receives about two weeks of groceries per month, versus a couple food boxes they can get from one of our partner agencies! The monitors keep agencies, as well as Roadrunner Food Bank, compliant with distribution policies and procedures, while the grants help keep Roadrunner Food Bank running full speed!

It’s amazing to know that I helped with getting around 80,000 meals to families in just 10 short weeks! There were countless stories and hunger videos I saw during the summer that brought tears to my eyes. Yet, there was one story that especially stuck out to me. One woman was at a pantry for food, and told me that she needed to apply for SNAP, but she had no vehicle. She had four children, and explained that traveling on the bus system seemed to make her children even more hungry than usual (since it took so much exercise). Plus, without a car, part-time work was necessary to make ride scheduling doable.  Well, long story short, she applied, and got approved within a week. I saw her about a month later, and she hugged me, saying “Thank you, now I spend more time at home cooking with my children, and less time bussing around, resenting hunger and feeling ashamed about not being able to provide!” She made me feel really proud!

I’m very proud to call myself an AmeriCorps VISTA, because it made me feel hopeful that people can persevere through hard times, including with a little help through good people from places like Roadrunner Food Bank and their volunteers. The community, as well as the staff at Roadrunner, taught me to want to do better, be better, and all in all, make a small difference in a very, very big way. And that’s what being a VISTA is: learning how to become the person you always wanted to be.

Matthew “Matt” Young is the Communications Coordinator at Roadrunner Food Bank of New Mexico. To comment on this or other blog features, you can comment directly below; call Matthew at (505) 349-8845; or e-mail Matthew at


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