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New FoodCorps Will Get Food Into Kids and Kids Into Gardens

New FoodCorps Will Get Food Into Kids and Kids Into Gardens

Across the country, young people have been getting into the “real food” act, from advocating for sustainable, ethical, local food on their college campuses to fighting for justice for farmworkers to ditching their Williamsburg apartments and becoming farmers.

In the past couple of years, we’ve also seen renewed focus on school gardens and early childhood nutrition — Michelle Obama has championed the cause, and Congress recently passed the “Healthy, Hunger-free Kids Act 2010,” including funding for farm-to-school programs as well as boosting school lunch nutrition.

FoodCorps within AmeriCorps
Starting this year, AmeriCorps is going to bring these causes together, tapping into the energy of young real food advocates to get children eating and growing real food. If they get enough funding, this fall will launch the first wave of FoodCorps volunteers, up to 82 young people who will work with nonprofit organizations in ten states to improve food access for children and get kids and teens involved in growing their own food.

Officially “An AmeriCorps School Garden and Farm to School Program,” the long-term goal of the FoodCorps is to “increase the health and prosperity of vulnerable children, while investing in the next generation of farmers.”
According to their website, FoodCorps members will “build Farm to School supply chains, expand food system and nutrition education programs, and build and tend school food gardens.” The first year’s volunteers alone will invest 139,400 hours of work into improving childhood nutrition and getting kids excited about growing and eating good food.

Host sites

The host sites, selected from 108 applicants, are working across the country:

In the future, the FoodCorps hopes to expand into all 50 states and the District of Columbia.

Yes, but…

While I’m very excited about the possibilities of the FoodCorps, I do have some slight concerns about the project. Most importantly, AmericCorps pays very little, and presumably this will also be the case with the FoodCorps; the members are meant to be volunteers, which I understand and appreciate. However, I worry that this will lead to a self-selecting group of applicants who fall on the more privileged side of the spectrum. 
After all, a young person with crushing college debt, an illness or disability requiring expensive treatments, a child or parent to support, or just no safety net might have incredible skills that would greatly benefit the FoodCorps, but not be able to survive on the scanty stipend. Of course, there are many affluent and unencumbered young people who can afford to go a year making next to nothing who have amazing skills and knowledge to offer — but while these young people should definitely be included, I would hate to see the FoodCorps restricted to them alone.

Sustainable only for the rich?

This is particularly striking because the sustainable food movement has often been depicted as a movement driven by white, upper-middle-class folks. This isn’t really true — for instance, check out Natasha Bowens’ fabulous “Color of Food” series over at Grist — and it’s important that the FoodCorps reflect the true diversity of the movement and not the privileged perception. Looking through the projects selected to host FoodCorps volunteers, it is obvious that many (if not all) of them deeply value diversity and will seek out volunteers who can bring unique perspectives to their work — hopefully AmeriCorps is examining its rules and compensation policies to make sure they’re getting as wide a range of talented volunteers as possible.

The Food Corps has the potential to build a powerful network throughout the United States and to bring healthy, affordable, delicious food to children while teaching them about their connection with food. With the energy and dedication of young real food advocates and the zeitgeist around childhood nutrition, it will be exciting to see where the FoodCorps can go from here!

Related Stories: 

Urban Gardens Sprout in Mall Food Courts, on Office Rooftops

Washington D.C. Schools Add a School Dinner Program

Michelle Obama Joins Chef Anne: Salad Bars in Every School–Healthy Food For All Kids!


Read more: , , , , , , , , ,

Photo of community gardeners was taken by ItzaFineDay and found on his flickr. It is reused with thanks under Creative Commons license.

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9:06AM PST on Dec 29, 2011

FoodCorps sounds interesting and I'm considering applying for the coming year. I hate to say it but the $15,000/year stipend really turns me off, especially because it doesn't look like I'd be able to use their Education Award. I'm really surprised that it's so competitive. Over 1200 applications for 50 spots.

3:34AM PST on Jan 14, 2011

3:33AM PST on Jan 14, 2011

I think you should consider the bill signed into law on November 30th 2010.

8:00PM PST on Jan 7, 2011

thanks for the article

6:56AM PST on Jan 7, 2011

This is cool. Thank You for the article

6:03AM PST on Jan 7, 2011

Learning to grow your own food is always a good thing. Even in Urban areas there is a place to plant a small garden. The biggest hold back is that it takes work. If people invested the same amount of time growing food as they do growing ornamental plants it would make a difference in people's pocket books and health. One more tomato is one more tomato to feed someone.

5:32AM PST on Jan 7, 2011


4:40AM PST on Jan 7, 2011

long overdue

5:07PM PST on Jan 5, 2011

Sel sufficiency has become a way of life for many people. It can be done anywhere. I have a friend who works full time and grows a garden on his balcony. He takes a child's swimming pool, fills it with soils and then seeds it. He does not grow enough food to live on all year but it certainly cuts down oon his grocery bills during the summer months.

For me the real issue in such projects, if done at a school age level, would not be the money that comes from it. Instead they would learn about self sustinance as well as the value of saving money by growing your own foods. And since you cannot grow junk food there would be nutrition lessons as well.

9:44AM PST on Jan 5, 2011

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Food for Thought---and Action

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