If you have listened to or been a part of the conversations about food insecurity, if you have or know a child in school, or if you are interested in nutrition, you most likely have heard Marissa Parisi’s name and her voice.
Marissa Parisi has been the Executive Director at Hunger Free Vermont since 2009, and in that time has made significant progress bringing the issues of hunger and adequate nutrition – especially in respect to children – to the forefront of legislation, and more importantly to the media’s attention. Marissa knows how to mobilize communities. By engaging key players in the conversations she has elevated Vermont’s hunger issues to a national platform and has earned both the support and respect of Washington policymakers.
She is considered an expert in developing sustainable programs, strategic planning, organizational development, and fundraising for non-profits. Her commitment to ending hunger in Vermont stems from an acute understanding of the interconnectedness of social justice issues and the fundamental role that hunger plays in strengthening our communities across the entire age spectrum. (Hunger Free Vermont)
I first met Marissa a year ago when the new nutrition standards were being rolled out in Vermont’s schools; these changes are a federal requirement of the Healthy Hunger-Free Kids Act of 2010. There was confusion, controversy, and skepticism around why our school meal programs were changing. The new requirements encourage kids to eat healthier meals; schools therefore set the stage by incorporating more grains, veggies, fruits, leaner proteins, and less fat into their menu offerings. “Parents and caregivers play a key role in not only making healthy choices for children and teaching children to make healthy choices for themselves.” (Let’s Move!)
I work for the Agency of Education and we have a monthly TV series titled “Education – Join the Conversation.” As part of our public outreach in an effort to get accurate information to Vermonters about the changes, we invited representatives from Hunger Free Vermont, Vermont FEED, and the School Nutrition Association of Vermont to talk about the changes and why they are good for Vermont’s kids. I encourage you to watch Let’s Talk about Nutrition so you can experience Marissa’s style and passion:
Hunger Free Vermont was instrumental in developing and helping to pass legislation in 2008 that made breakfast free for all low-income children in the state. Marissa has spent the last three years rallying support for additional legislation to make lunch free for reduced-priced students. After three years Marissa, Hunger Free Vermont, and supporters were successful and H.60 was amended, consequently the language of Sec. 2. 16 V.S.A. § 1264(c) now includes lunch. The cost (state appropriation) to the state is a mere $0.30 per meal (per State Board Rule 2311 “Each public school shall be maintained and operated for 175 student days…”). Suppose a child eats both breakfast and lunch at school, the total cost would be $105 per student per school year, that $105 could cause a struggling family serious concern in terms choosing between food and heat (or other basic necessities). You can read the press release from Governor Shumlin and the Vermont Agency of Education here.
Facing Hunger in America featured Marissa on their blog in early 2012. The feature speaks to Marissa’s energy and passion, her collaborative nature, her resourcefulness, and the sheer magnitude of one person’s voice as an instrument of change. Marissa understands how to research in order to create new knowledge to inform policy with the overarching goal of improving nutrition and food security for all Vermonters. Her voice is heard by legislatures and our congressional delegation. Marissa understands that communities have a significant impact on educational processes and that Vermonters stand strong when they believe in something. Marissa has harnessed those voices and created a food alliance committed to building a healthier Vermont.
Comstock, B & Pesheck, C. (2012, March 21). Hunger Free Vermont [web blog post]. Retrieved from http://facinghungerinamerica.blogspot.com/2012/03/hunger-free-vermont.html
Hunger Free Vermont. (2013). Marissa Parisi, Executive Director. Retrieved from http://www.hungerfreevt.org/we/directory/6-marissa-parisi
Let’s Move! (2010). America’s Move to Raise a Healthier Generation of Kids. Retrieved from http://www.letsmove.gov/eat-healthy
U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), Food & Nutrition Service. (2010, December). Healthy Hunger Free Kids Act of 2010. Retrieved from http://www.fns.usda.gov/cnd/Governance/Legislation/CNR_2010.htm
Vermont Agency of Education. (2012, November). Education – Join the conversation. Retrieved from http://education.vermont.gov/new/html/dept/join_the_conversation.html
Vermont Agency of Education. (2006, February 9). State Board of Education: Manual of rules and practices. Retrieved from http://education.vermont.gov/new/html/board/rules.html
Vermont Agency of Education. (2013, September 3). Vermont becomes the first state to offer free breakfast and lunch to all low-income students. Retrieved from http://education.vermont.gov/documents/EDU-Press_Release_2013_09_03_Free_Meals_to_Low_Income_Students.pdf
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APA cite this article in text as: (Ross, 2014)
APA cite this article in References as: Ross, A. (2014). Marissa Parisi: What does 30 cents mean to you? Vermont Psychology. Retrieved from http://wp.me/p4elXk-1E
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Angela Ross is the Public Information Officer & Communication Director at the Vermont Agency of Education.