FoodCorps: Tackling Childhood Obesity

FoodCorps: Tackling Childhood Obesity

Thu 15 Sep 2011

Story by The Food Revolution Team
 

A typical American elementary student gets just 3.4 hours of nutrition education each year.

As our rapidly escalating childhood obesity levels indicate, we need to do far more to ensure that our children grow up with healthy eating habits. A new organization is determined to do just that.

FoodCorps is a new national nonprofit organization working to bring about its vision of healthy children who are knowledgeable and empowered to make the right food and lifestyle choices. They aim to give kids top notch nutrition education, hands-on involvement growing school gardens, and access to high quality local food in school cafeterias. FoodCorps sees schools as the front line of the battle against obesity and diet-related illness such as Type II diabetes, and they’re sending in the troops!

These ‘food fighters’ may look like your average young person. But there’s nothing average about what they’re doing: these FoodCorps Service Members will dedicate a year of their lives to help teach good nutrition, grow school gardens, and get healthy, local food into school lunches.

The initial 50 Service Members have just set off to 42 sites across 10 US states, where they will live in limited-resource communities, helping to instill a lifelong love of good, healthy food in vulnerable children byspending the year conducting food and nutrition education, building and tending school gardens, and helping source locally grown food for school meals.

It’s national service, and there are plenty of young adults up for the challenge. FoodCorps received over 1,200 applications for these first 50 positions: that’s more competitive than getting into Harvard University or Teach for America! It’s also proof of an inspiring determination and commitment among America’s youth to help improve their country’s health.

FoodCorps Service Members work under the direction of local partner organizations with strong relationships in the communities they serve. They use a number of tools to improve children’s nutrition education in a fun and effective way. In addition to traditional classroom education, they bring in athletes and chefs to give talks and demonstrations. They run cooking classes, and prove to kids through personal lifestyle choices that living and eating healthily is achievable and positive.

Service Members not only promote education, but also engagement with and access to healthy food. They set up or expand school gardens which become the heart of a local food community, bringing children, teachers and parents together in outdoor activities, and in learning new skills. Finally, they establish Farm to School initiatives, introducing children to the people who grow their foods, and putting fresh, healthy, local food on cafeteria plates.

FoodCorps is also partnering with the Whole Kids Foundation School Garden Grant Program to offer grants to individuals and organizations ready to build, expand or renew their own school garden. 1,000 grants of $2,000 each will be awarded in spring 2012. Find out more here.

FoodCorps was conceived in 2009 by six young food-systems leaders. That day coincided with President Obama’s announcement of the Kennedy Serve America Act, a bipartisan initiative to encourage service work to address several core national issues, including childhood obesity. The team identified this as an incredible opportunity to create a program that would harness the passion they saw among young people—people driven to do something to change the way we eat—in order to give all children the opportunity to grow up in a healthy food environment.

The team, led by Curt Ellis (filmmaker of King Corn), Debra Eschmeyer (formerly of the National Farm to School Network) and Cecily Upton (formerly of Slow Food USA) has ambitious plans to grow FoodCorps over the next decade into a 50-state organization that deploys more than 1,000 Service Members a year in support of healthy kids.

It’s hands-on, imaginative and fun – just what the Food Revolution loves to hear about! Best of all, anyone can get involved. There are the Service Members, of course, who benefit from funding, training and mentorship in food, agriculture, education or public health. Many are expected to go on to careers in the food sector, and will gain invaluable experience throughout their year. But the FoodCorps relies on a network of passionate volunteers and donors to achieve its goals and support the full-time Service Members. For more information and to learn how you can get involved with FoodCorps please visit: foodcorps.org

The Food Revolution Team

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