It’s mid-September. The leaves of northern Michigan’s forests are turning to orange and red, the days are getting shorter, and the air is chilly at night. This autumnal transition coincides with a new school year. From nervous, first-time kindergartners to ecstatic seniors, we all know this feeling. But after graduating from college, I never thought I’d have the same “back to school” sensation—that is, until I joined FoodCorps.
FoodCorps aims to connect kids to healthy food in schools through food education in the classroom, engaging kids in hands-on activities in the garden and encouraging kids to try fresh, local foods in the school cafeteria.
Last year I served as Groundwork’s FoodCorps AmeriCorps service member at Boyne Falls Public School. This year I returned for another year of service at Boyne Falls, but I’m also working in Pellston Public Schools. Both schools are located in rural northern Michigan, but each have their own unique situation that shapes the goals and focus of my service.
My first year at Boyne Falls was centered around building relationships within the school, getting to know the broader community and its needs, and forming a role for myself. I worked with the food service director, staff and teachers to implement lessons in the classroom, hold taste tests in the cafeteria and foster experience in the school hoophouse. This coming year, we hope to tackle some of our bigger-picture goals like redesigning the cafeteria space to be a more welcoming environment, creating staying power with food-based lesson plans, and expanding the garden space.
Since this is Pellston’s first year as a FoodCorps school, I’m hoping to learn a lot about the community to see where I best fit and where collaborating with FoodCorps makes sense. I’m hoping to work with teachers to implement lessons that will both meet standard requirements and also align with food systems thinking. I’m already working with Pellston’s new food service director, Sherry Sedore, on procuring local food and introducing monthly taste tests of seasonal local produce in the cafeteria. We recently hosted a pop-up farmer’s market during the school’s open house where Sherry held her first taste test. It was the perfect opportunity to kickstart relationships between farmers, the community, school staff, and students.
As a FoodCorps service member, it’s pretty amazing to see this effort moving and growing across the nation. Being part of the daily action in schools and working toward creating a schoolwide culture of health has been inspiring and fulfilling. I’m excited to be serving for another year and have already hit the ground running after last year’s experience and progress.
There’s a lot of work to be done in both Boyne Falls and Pellston, but there are also many people who care and are coming together in this community. I hope to collaborate with you!