FoodCorps, an offshoot of the AmeriCorps program, was launched in 2011 with the goals of addressing childhood obesity in limited-resource communities while training the next generation of food and farm leaders.
The 50 inaugural service members have been hard at work over the past six months, providing hands-on nutrition education, establishing and tending school gardens and making farm to school connections in public school cafeterias across the country.
In just a short time, these young leaders have already reached 20,000 children in 10 states – a huge accomplishment as FoodCorps begins its second round of recruitment this month, with hopes of expanding the number of service members involved and the number of children and states reached through the program.
It’s my pleasure to introduce you to Erika VanDyke, one of the first class of FoodCorps members, working in her hometown, Grand Rapids, Michigan. Erika and I met as part of the FoodCorps mentorship program, and we’ll continue to have monthly phone calls for the remainder of her term, swapping stories about our work and gaining a new friend in the food system in the process. I was instantly impressed by Erika’s positive energy and by her commitment to food justice and her community.
I asked Erika to share a bit about her experience so far, and here’s what she had to say:
“FoodCorps has given me a chance to make tangible change in the community I grew up in. It’s incredibly rewarding to watch kids get excited about healthy food. Hearing “Miss Erika, look! I ate my celery and carrots today!” makes this an experience I wish everyone could have. I can’t wait until the ground thaws and we can start getting kids’ hands dirty in their own school gardens. By giving students the opportunity to learn about where their food comes from by helping it grow, we make them part of the good food movement. Maybe school gardens will inspire the kids to become farmers someday, but at the very least, they will instill a new appreciation for the work of those who grow our food.”
We couldn’t agree more about the transformational power of getting your hands dirty, and are so thrilled to know so many children will find deeper value in the work of family farmers and a deeper connection to good food through the FoodCorps effort. We are proud to be connected to such a fantastic program and a stellar young leader like Erika!