We are so pleased to introduce our new FoodCorps AmeriCorps service member, Casey Haggerty, who has joined the northern food and farming scene from Howell, Michigan. She graduated from the University of Michigan with a bachelor’s degree in environmental science and will continue a farm-to-school partnership with FoodCorps that started in 2011, when Groundwork hosted two of the 50 members of FoodCorps’ inaugural class of service members. Many of our service members have stayed close over the years, Daniel Marbury (’11–’13), now Program Coordinator at Crosshatch Center for Art & Ecology, Stephanie Cumper (’15-’16), currently farming in Leelanau County with Loma Farm, Lindsay Hall (’16–’18), joining the environmental education staff of Little Traverse Conservancy, and of course our very own Food and Farming Program Director, Meghan McDermott (’13–’15).
Groundwork has been acting as a service site for FoodCorps for seven years, with those first years based in the Grand Traverse region. In 2016, the FoodCorps program spread north, when Groundwork opened a Petoskey office and expanded programs for farm-to-school, food access and farmer support to an area ripe and ready to collaborate.
Haggerty is deeply passionate about environmental stewardship and is fascinated by agricultural practices that work with, rather than against, the natural world. This year she is excited to work with Groundwork to learn more about what it takes to create a thriving local food system. Groundwork is thrilled to be a service site for this program because our local-food systems-change work and FoodCorps’ on-the-ground action is a great way to meet community needs. Through FoodCorps, Groundwork provides direct nutrition, culinary education, and garden education to schools where 50 percent or more of the student population qualifies for free or reduced lunch.
Groundwork has chosen to allocate this limited resource to Boyne Falls Public School and Pellston Public Schools, because of their interest, enthusiasm and commitment to creating a healthy school food environment and integrating fresh, local food into their food service programs as much as possible. With FoodCorps, Groundwork has been able to support schools with activities such as cafeteria taste tests, school gardens and food-and-farm-oriented curriculum that turns kids on to healthy, locally grown foods. This also provides marketing support for food service directors who need happy customers to be successful in making changes.
By serving as a local host for a FoodCorps service member, the Groundwork team hopes to change the culture of nutrition and wellness within schools we work with, but we also know that working with one or two schools can have an impact on the wider community.
Imagine your children bursting through the front door after school, dropping their backpacks at the door and saying, “Mom, can we make parsnip pancakes?” or “Can we buy some sunflower sprouts at the farmers market?” That is what is happening within school families that have benefited from this partnership. Haggerty’s enthusiasm will add fuel to the remarkable progress we’ve been able to achieve in Boyne Falls Public Schools and Pellston Public Schools, under the service of former FoodCorps service member Lindsay Hall, who paved the way for service in the north. (Read more about this incredible program here.)
This September, Boyne Falls will be entering its third year of partnership with Groundwork and FoodCorps, while Pellston will be in its second year. One parent recently said to the farmers at Bear Creek Organic Farm, who supply produce to the school’s lunch program and monthly tastings, “My kids just had a drag-down fight about who was entitled to the last of the spring pea shoots. Thanks for growing vegetables that are more popular than candy at my house!”
Haggerty is excited to help provide children with the opportunity to grow food so they too can experience the joy of eating something they planted themselves. “When [my family] moved to where it was possible to keep our own animals and vegetable garden, it changed my worldview. Previously, my mornings were spent checking social media. Now, I get to go outside to watch the sunrise with horses, and vegetables play a huge role in my diet!” Haggerty says. “I am so excited to be a part of FoodCorps. I want to help children realize what it took me until my late teens to understand: Our well-being is dependent on that of the earth, and vegetables are delicious!”
“This last year was a really strong year,” says Groundwork’s Local Food Policy Specialist, Jen Schaap. “In both Boyne Falls Public Schools and Pellston Public Schools we’ve been able to build and strengthen a schoolwide culture of health from the inside out.” Groundwork has deployed food champions and our FoodCorps Service Member within the schools, and at a bigger level has engaged community members like Mary Rapin of Bliss Gardens Farm and Community Kitchen, the Ziibimijwang Farm, and Crooked Tree Breadworks owner and operator Greg Carpenter. “This community has a strong passion and dedication to students eating healthier, more-local food. The addition of Casey to the team is an exciting continuation of a strong program,” Schaap says.