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Making a Career in School Gardens

When I was in undergrad in the Northeast, around 15 years ago, a degree in “Food Studies” was unheard of.  A campus farm or edible garden was something reserved for agriculture schools or off-campus hippie/granola enclaves. However, the past 5  years have shown a proliferation of opportunities to get trained as farmers, gardeners, food policy makers, and food law practitioners.

On a recent site visit to Portland, Oregon, I met with FoodCorps service site supervisor Caitlin Blethen and her service member Jessica Polledri. Caitlin told me about her local program that trains school garden coordinators. This signaled to me a similar kind of sea change. It indicated that there is a desire out there to be trained in this work, and that there is a (slowly) growing market of jobs being created to do this work. I’ll let Jessica—a graduate of the program– take it from here: Read more

FoodCorps: Now Recruiting!

FoodCorps is growing—expanding the number of states we’ll be working in next year and expanding the number of service members who are creating community and creating change. We created FoodCorps with two goals in mind: Addressing a public health crisis and providing a training opportunity for all of growing interest in careers in food and agriculture. Becoming a FoodCorps service member is a way to launch your career in food and farming while helping kids get healthy.

Rachel is one of 50 future food systems leaders who started their terms of service this past August as the first ever class of FoodCorps service members. So far this year, these service members have reached over 20,000 children in 10 states. They are addressing the nation’s painful and costly childhood obesity epidemic using our three recipe ingredient for change: Hands-on nutrition education, growing and tending school gardens, and getting healthy local food onto school cafeteria trays. Read more

Haute Cuisine Gone Green: James Beard Foundation Focuses on Sustainability

Two miles north of Zuccotti Park, where Occupy Wall Street‘s encamped, there’s another would-be hotspot of cultural change occupying a more genteel locale: the James Beard Foundation (JBF). Seriously? This epicurean epicenter housed in an elegant West Village brownstone with eternally well-tended window boxes, wants to stir up something more culturally significant than mouth-watering meals curated by celebrity chefs?

Well, yes. And it’s a logical move, if they don’t want to see their legacy (or their democracy) go down the toilet. After all, as Mario Batali once pointed out on CBS Sunday Morning, “When you think about it, all my greatest work is poop, tomorrow.” Read more

FoodCorps Members Get Their Hands Dirty

At a compost bin that doubles as a podium, urban farming hero Will Allen faced the inaugural class of 50 FoodCorps service members—sitting together in Milwaukee but about to spin out to ten states around the country–giving them advice for the year of service they have ahead of them.

“There’s a lot of skill and knowledge existing in the communities you’re going into. You’ll bring stuff, and you’ll learn stuff. It’s a two-way street,” he said. “That’s how real sustainability works.” Read more

Happy Anniversary Let’s Move! FoodCorps Recruiting First Class of Service Members

One year ago this week, the Obama administration launched Let’s Move, an initiative to solve the problem of childhood obesity within a generation.  It’s an ambitious–but critically important–goal.

In the last 30 years, the percentage of American children who are overweight or obese has tripled. Diet-related disease, diminished academic performance and a shortened life expectancy threaten the future of our kids. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, one in three American children born in the year 2000 is on a path toward Type II diabetes. Among children of color, the figure approaches one in two. Retired Generals describe a coming crisis of national security: already, 27 percent of 17-24 year olds are ineligible for military service because of excess body fat.

This administration has placed a strong emphasis on healthy futures for our children, and rightly so: America’s sweeping epidemic of childhood obesity requires us to martial a national response. Read more

Faces & Visions of the Food Movement: Debra Eschmeyer

Debra is one of the founders of FoodCorps and the Communications and Outreach Director of the National Farm to School Network, which is a program of the Urban and Environmental Policy Institute at Occidental College. Debra is also an Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy Food and Society Fellow. Debra’s previous non-profit work spans the globe in the humanitarian, conservation, sustainable agriculture, and food justice realms. She works from her fifth-generation family farm in Ohio, where she continues her passion for organic farming raising fruits and vegetables.

CE: What issues have you been focused on?

DE: It ranges from food policy, Farm to School, school gardens, school food, rural sociology, obesity, dairy policy, commodity policy, food justice… basically from seed to stomach. The whole gamut.

CE: What inspires you to do this work?

DE: I am a dairy farmer’s daughter and given that there are fewer than 60,000 dairy farmers in the United States, not many people can really understand what that means. But, I grew up with a dairy chip on my shoulder, watching how working for this food system is hard work and when you see that it’s broken even after all of that hard work, that’s frustrating. Read more

Introducing the FoodCorps

With one in three children (and one in two children of color) overweight or obese in this country, the health of America’s kids is under the microscope and, for the first time in our history, children born now will not live as long as their parents. Michelle Obama has launched her Let’s Move campaign, and chef Jamie Oliver’s Food Revolution brought the school cafeteria to television. But as Oliver’s program showed, one of the biggest barriers to changing kids’ health outcomes is a lack of dedicated labor and expertise.

That is where FoodCorps comes in, an AmeriCorps program that would put service members to work building school gardens and establishing farm-to-school relationships in towns across the United States, specifically in places lacking regular access to fresh produce. A collaboration between the National Farm to School Network, Slow Food USA and other groups, the FoodCorps team has raised more than $215,000 from the Kellogg Foundation and AmeriCorps to develop the program, which could begin as early as 2011. Read more