Rebekah Sousa has joined the Maine Department of Education (DOE) Office of School and Student Supports to build awareness, capacity, and resources related to food justice for Maine students. She is a Volunteer in Service to America (VISTA) member of Americorps, serving a one year term. Americorps was established in 1964 to help communities combat poverty. Rebekah’s position is one of 25 state-wide VISTA positions that are focused on ending hunger in Maine by 2030.
Rebekah will be creating a needs assessment to identify schools and communities that may need more support reaching families in need, working with the Maine School Safety Center (MSSC) to communicate the relationship between food security and school security, and applying for grants to create programming and support resources to ameliorate food insecurity for students and their families. The end goal is for all children to have regular access to enough nutritious food for growth, learning, and development, contributing to a safe, active, and healthy life.
Rebekah is an Air Force Veteran and mother of 6. She holds a master’s degree in public health and has worked largely in the healthcare setting and in preventative medicine. Very recently, she worked as an Ed Tech at her village school and discovered how rewarding it is to work with the future generation. Rebekah hopes to return to the classroom when she finishes her teaching certificate, but in the meantime, she will pursue another passion project: feeding the hungry.
Rebekah grew up in a food insecure home and fondly remembers helping out in the kitchen at school in exchange for meals. The memories of empty cupboards in her single-parent childhood home are not as rosy.
Rebekah aims to strengthen services, reduce barriers, and make resources more easily available for the students who are currently receiving free/reduced meals. She also longs to reach the students who are living on the cusp of poverty and might not qualify, but would greatly benefit physically, mentally, and emotionally from nutritional support. The short and long-term consequences of food insecurity are too great to ignore; no one should have to live with hunger or uncertainty where their next meal is coming from. To this end, she welcomes all collaboration and insight from the educators and support staff with “boots on the ground” doing the front-line work every day.
Rebekah joins Caroline Bennett, a VISTA member serving on Maine DOE’s Child Nutrition Team. Caroline is halfway through her year of service with the Department on promoting the federal meal benefit program and other initiatives that provide Maine children with healthy meals through school.
Please contact Rebekah at Rebekah.firstname.lastname@example.org or (207) 816-1440.