FoodCorps, a national organization that connects children in limited resource communities to healthy food in school, is accepting applications until March 15 for its seventh annual class of AmeriCorps service members. The selected community leaders will dedicate one year of full-time, paid public service in school food systems—teaching hands-on lessons in growing, cooking and tasting food, collaborating with food service staff to steer students toward the healthiest options in the cafeteria, and working alongside school administrators and teachers to foster a schoolwide culture of health.
“What we feed our children in school—and what we teach them about food there—shapes their health and success over a lifetime,” said Curt Ellis, FoodCorps co-founder and CEO. “By joining FoodCorps, you will have a chance to do something incredibly important: connect children in your community to healthy food, and give them the opportunity to grow, learn and thrive.”
FoodCorps addresses the root causes—access and connection to healthy food—by partnering with schools and communities to address these issues in the place where our country’s most vulnerable children eat the majority of their calories. School food programs provide a significant portion—in some cases up to half—of a student’s daily calories. The 2014 “Framework for Healthy Communities in Northwest Michigan” prepared by Networks Northwest, reports that “about a third of residents living in the region are obese (Body Mass Index greater than 30) and another one-third are overweight”, and those conditions are even higher for those in poverty. The prevalence of diagnosed diabetes in our region is higher than the state level, and particularly for those in poverty.
Boyne Falls Public Schools is among the schools in northwest Michigan that have teamed with the Groundwork Center for Resilient Communities to host FoodCorps service members over the past two school years.
“Boyne Falls Public Schools food service has a strong commitment to offering healthy, local food to our students,” said superintendent Cynthia Pineda. “Our partnership with the Groundwork Center has helped our food service program reach new heights by supporting our school cafeteria, in-class lessons on healthful foods, and even revising our district wellness policy.”
Current FoodCorps service member Lindsay Hall has worked at Boyne Falls over the past two school years and at Pellston Public Schools in 2017-18.
“Serving for FoodCorps has been an incredible experience,” said Hall. “I’ve grown personally and professionally, but more importantly, I’ve grown with the people, students and community I serve. I am proud to have promoted positive change through education and hands on experience in the place I call home, and feel connected and engaged in a completely new way.”
In its first seven years, FoodCorps has brought important progress to the schools it serves, demonstrating measurable change to children’s eating habits and helping the schools it partners with become healthier environments. Hundreds of AmeriCorps service members have introduced new healthy recipes into cafeterias, built and taught in hundreds of school gardens from New Mexico to Connecticut, and engaged thousands of volunteers and parents in their efforts. In addition, FoodCorps provides valuable skills and training to the service members who go through the program, setting them up for careers in school food, public health and education. The benefits of AmeriCorps service include a $18,250 stipend, health care, training, and a $5,920 education award.
This year FoodCorps seeks up to 230 men and women, nationwide, with a passion for serving their communities, a commitment to social justice and an interest in jumpstarting their careers. Applications are due March 15. Emerging leaders interested in getting more information should visit FoodCorps.org/apply.
Jennifer Schaap is the local food policy specialist who coordinates Groundwork's food and farming program in the Northern Farms Foodshed of Antrim, Charlevoix and Emmet counties. Contact her at email@example.com.