ABOVE PHOTO: Some school food jobs now involve helping manage and teach classes in hoop houses. Pellston schools hoop house shown under construction.
My first job in northwest Michigan was at a Montessori school. It was 2006, and I saw how four- and five-year-olds fell in love with whole foods when they experienced the robust flavors and unique qualities, versus ultra-processed foods, laden with salt, fat, and sugar that are causing health issues.
In class, we made applesauce and sliced red peppers to adorn cream cheese on crackers. Conversations about the fresh snacks revealed which students had home gardens. Then, it was like a competition about who grew what and which garden-fresh foods they tried. I observed that students with gardens were less fearful of vegetables and much more interested in trying new foods.
But farm to school–related jobs were rare. I certainly didn’t have one in the years upon leaving that little school — but I do now. I never would have guessed that in March 2021 we would see five farm to school job positions being advertised in the region.
Check this out:
- Pellston Public Schools is hiring a chef to enhance its food service program with homemade meals, fresh, locally sourced ingredients, and new dishes. They will work under chef Nathan Bates, known for his inspiring meals at Boyne Falls Public Schools. “This is an exciting chance to train and retain a chef who will help the current food service team reach the district’s common nutrition goals,” Bates said. (The deadline to apply for this position has passed.)
- Traverse Bay Area Intermediate School District posted a Nutrition Facilitator position to provide nutrition education through taste-testing and cooking demonstrations in low-income schools. Elena Mosher, TBAISD’s Farm to School Coordinator, says, “The position will support our SNAP education program, which provides direct education to K-5 graders focused on growing, cooking, and eating local, healthy foods. The goal is to make fruits, vegetables, and other nutritious foods fun and exciting, and expose students to new foods.” Posted until filled.
- FoodCorps, a national organization connecting students to healthy food, has openings through Groundwork’s Petoskey office. Two of the three service members would continue to conduct hands-on lessons and build a schoolwide culture of health in Alanson, Boyne Falls, East Jordan, and Pellston schools. FoodCorps invited Groundwork to participate in a nationwide pilot, creating the third opportunity focusing on school meal quality and ultimately what ends up on cafeteria trays. Applications are reviewed as they are submitted.
In addition to providing immediate jobs, FoodCorps attracts talent to the region. Mosher, for example, grew up in Northport and was a FoodCorps service member herself. The TBAISD farm to school coordinator job that she now holds helped her return home. “This region has such a rich agricultural community, and it is exciting to see schools starting to tap into that,” she says.
Our area’s identity is definitely shaped by the amazing farms and communities that care about the health of our students. I, too, am excited to see these positions filled with incredible people ready to provide our students with the tools they need to thrive.
Jen Schaap is the Local Food Policy Specialist on the Food and Farming team at Groundwork Center for Resilient Communities and coordinates Groundwork’s food and farming work in the Northern Farms Foodshed out of Groundwork’s Petoskey office. Her work includes support for farm to school and food access projects as well as the expansion of markets for farms and food businesses. Find information about the five jobs available at the websites of Pellston Public Schools, TBAISD, and Groundwork Center, or email [email protected].