University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences awarded more than $255,000 in American Rescue Plan funds to serve rural and urban communities

WASHINGTON, D.C. – AmeriCorps, the federal agency for national service and volunteerism, announced more than $255,000 in American Rescue Plan grant funding to the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences as part of the AmeriCorps VISTA program’s food security initiative over the next three years.

The AmeriCorps VISTA initiative, launched in 2020, is a comprehensive and collaborative approach to end hunger which affects one in eight Americans and more than 400,000 Arkansans. AmeriCorps has awarded over $2 million in grants to organizations addressing the impact of hunger in their state during the pandemic.

The UAMS Office of Community Health & Research collaborates with Arkansas organizations who serve diverse food-insecure populations. Together with national and local experts, AmeriCorps and UAMS will work to improve the local food system.

On Thursday, Aug. 25, Daniel Dunlap, AmeriCorps South Central deputy regional administrator joined Amy Wenger, MHSA, vice chancellor, UAMS Northwest Regional Campus, Pearl McElfish, Ph.D., MBA, division director of the UAMS Office of Community Health & Research, and Mayor Doug Sprouse of Springdale, Ark., to recognize AmeriCorps members and announce the grant award at the UAMS Office of Community Health & Research in Springdale, Ark.

“The Biden-Harris Administration’s historic American Rescue Plan investment enabled AmeriCorps to expand our food security efforts in communities with the greatest need,” said Michael D. Smith, AmeriCorps CEO. “UAMS’ programs not only address immediate hunger, but they also prioritize public health education and agricultural production to disrupt the cycle of food access issues.”

“Addressing food security in Arkansas is a priority aim of UAMS Community Health & Research,” Pearl McElfish, division director of the UAMS Office of Community Health & Research said. “AmeriCorps VISTA Food Security Initiative service members will build the capacity of our partner organizations to best serve their communities. Access to healthy foods is key to building thriving communities, and we are thrilled to bring this program to Arkansas.”

UAMS is recruiting up to 25 AmeriCorps members to serve in the VISTA program to support organizations across the state working to meet the needs of Arkansas’ most vulnerable and underserved populations. These AmeriCorps members will expand capacity and increase food access through their service in the charitable food system, support of local agriculture and production programs, improve coordination and connection to essential services that impact food security, and increase availability to culturally and medically appropriate foods.

In addition to grants, VISTA’s collaborative approach to poverty and hunger alleviation includes a recently launched learning community for VISTA sponsors to meet every other month to share ideas, best practices and build their network.

AmeriCorps continues to invest in the nation’s COVID-19 recovery. With existing programs in more than 40,000 locations across the country, AmeriCorps is uniquely positioned to bolster community response efforts. In response to the pandemic, hundreds of thousands of AmeriCorps members and AmeriCorps Seniors volunteers across all 50 states and U.S. territories have continued their service, quickly adapting to meet the changing needs caused by the pandemic and have provided vital support, community response, and recovery efforts, providing support to more than 12.5 million Americans, including 2.5 million people at vaccination sites.

Visit to find out more about hunger relief in Arkansas, including opportunities to apply to serve as an AmeriCorps member.