SAC 2012 Workshop – FoodCorps: A Tool for Growing Farm-to-School Capacity workshop
by Jacqueline Venner Senske, conference blogger
FoodCorps is amazing and totally inspiring. The morning session on Saturday was a little chaotic – or maybe kinetic is a better term for it – but the energy in the room was incredible. FoodCorps service members from around North Carolina didn’t just tell us about their incredible experiences teaching kids about food and how it grows; they showed us. They demonstrated how they get kids to eat the food (Telling a second grader, “I need you to put it in your mouth. And swallow.”), how they engage students about nutrition (One talented service member led the room in a song about the USDA’s new My Plate nutrition recommendations to the tune of “My Girl.”), and we even made food (Collard Wraps with hummus, red pepper, shredded carrots, and a dash of lemon juice. Fun to make, fun to eat, beautiful to look at, and totally easy for kids.)
So let’s back up a second. First, some basics about FoodCorps (pulled from FoodCorps.org):
FoodCorps is a nationwide team of leaders that connects kids to real food and helps them grow up healthy.
We do that by placing motivated leaders in limited-resource communities for a year of public service. Working under the direction of local partner organizations, we implement a three-ingredient recipe for healthy kids. Our Service Members:
Teach kids about what healthy food is and where it comes from
Build and tend school gardens
Bring high-quality local food into public school cafeterias
The organization coordinates at state and national levels but operates locally through various partner organizations. In North Carolina, NC 4H and the Center for Environmental Farming Systems host FoodCorps, led by Tes Thraves.
In North Carolina, there are six FoodCorps sites, each with unique partner organizations.
- New Hanover/Brunswick Counties, Feast Down East
- Gaston County, Gaston County Cooperative Extension
- Moore County, Communities in Schools
- Guilford County, Guilford County Cooperative Extension
- Warren County, Warren County Cooperative Extension, Working Landscapes & UNC Center for Health Promotion and Disease Prevention
- Wayne County, 4-H & CEFS
Each FoodCorps program in each school looks a little bit different because it develops according to the specific situation. This ability to implement the organization’s three pillars – Knowledge through Nutrition Education, Engagement through School Gardens, and Access through Farm to Cafeteria programs– in ways that work for individual schools seems like it’s a big part of the program’s success.
Another thing that is a huge contributor to the program’s success is the people. FoodCorps members are the kind of people you just want to be around. They have light. They shine. They have bottomless energy and provide constant inspiration. The mission of the organization is important, and founder Debra Eschmeyer is an amazing visionary and savvy leader, but the kids on the ground are its beating heart.
FoodCorps service members are making changes in these communities one kid at a time. And that’s the only way change will happen.
A Commitment to Farm to School
by Jennifer MacDougall, Healthy Active Communities Senior Program Officer, BCBSNC Foundation
North Carolina is a state known for its agriculture. Apples, strawberries, watermelon, lettuce, sweet potatoes and more-from the mountains to the coast- the quality and variety of produce grown in our state is astounding. Unfortunately, North Carolina is also known as a state with high rates of childhood obesity. A state where one in three children is obese or at risk of becoming obese, and a state where more than 40 percent of children ages 5-10 and more than 80 percent of high school youth do not eat the recommended servings of fruits and vegetables each day.
One place to bridge this issue is in school and in the school cafeteria. So many memories of school take place in the cafeteria and over a tray of food. With over 800,000 lunches served in NC’s public schools every day, what if those meals could highlight North Carolina’s produce? And what if classroom teachers could help strengthen that connection to the food by teaching children about where it is grown, who grows it, and why it’s good to eat? That’s the goal of the North Carolina Farm to School program.
In 1997, the North Carolina Department of Agriculture & Consumer Services (NCDA&CS) developed a system for North Carolina schools across the state to receive fresh produce grown by local farmers. By buying produce directly from North Carolina farmers, schools know students are getting locally grown produce and the program has opened an additional market for North Carolina farmers; a win for the entire state.
Through a three-year grant, the Blue Cross and Blue Shield of North Carolina Foundation has recently invested in the Farm to School program to increase access to healthy food and promote education to make smart choices. The grant provides funding for five new refrigerated tractor-trailers, increasing the distribution of local fruits and vegetables to 35 additional school systems statewide and increasing the number of participating farmers from 75 to 105. Additionally, the grant supports a three-year Farm to School marketing initiative to teach children about what is being served in their school cafeteria, where it is grown, how to make healthy food choices and the importance of a healthy diet, as well as raise the profile of the Farm to School program among school systems across the state.
All school districts in North Carolina have the ability to be part of the North Carolina Farm to School Program that now includes farm-fresh produce throughout the school year. By making connections between our state’s children and our state’s agriculture, we are growing a healthier future.
To learn more or to get involved, visit www.ncfarmtoschool.com.