A FOOD CORPS TEAM UPDATE
FoodCorps is a nationwide program aimed at providing students with access to nourishing food and food education in their schools. FoodCorps achieves this goal by connecting Food Education service members with students in the classroom, cafeteria, and garden.
What draws people to become FoodCorps Service members? “I saw there were people doing the work I wanted to do in my small hometown,” says Courtney Wilber, a Food Education service member. “Since joining this amazing crew of people, I have supported a Fresh Fruit and Veggie Program, planned a garden space for a school, worked with students on plant education and nourishing food education, and feel passionate about my work!”
“I joined FoodCorps for so many reasons,” says Meghan Monaghan, who, like Courtney, is also a Food Education service member for the 2022-23 school year. “But the biggest one is that I am passionate about the relationships between food justice, proper nutrition, and overall well-being—at the individual, community, mental, and physical levels.”
Most Food Education service members are assigned to a school or two where they connect with teachers, food service, and school gardeners to teach food-related lessons. Currently in our region, Alanson, East Jordan, and Pellston schools are benefiting from the knowledge and enthusiasm of this year’s cohort.
In school year 2020-21, a new FoodCorps service member position was created in the Char-Em region to reach students at a district-wide level. Not constrained to only two schools, the School Nutrition service member is able to implement programming with a broader scope. This has the additional benefit of reaching schools that normally wouldn’t be eligible for a Food Education service member.
An unfortunate truth about northwest Lower Michigan is the presence of extreme wealth inequality. For a school to qualify for FoodCorps staff, 50% of the students must qualify for free or reduced school meals. While focusing on these schools makes for a good use of scarce resources and a small cohort of Food Education service members, it can leave lower income families at a disadvantage if their children attend a wealthier school. This is where School Nutrition service members have their greatest opportunity.
Lauren Driscoll, the School Nutrition service member says, “The pursuit of equity and a desire to fight oppression in all its forms inspired me to dive into the world of food and farming, and the commitment to community and the wish for every human to equitably nourish themselves is what keeps me in this field, alongside an obviously strong love for food and our Earth.”
What’s happening at our Char-Em FoodCorps schools today? Alanson is working with our service members to build up garden infrastructure. In East Jordan, through a powerful combination of food-growing expertise and knowledge of Anishinaabek culture, the teachers and service members give students a sense of deep connection with the region and the foods that sustained people here for thousands of years. In Pellston’s final year in the FoodCorps program, a good deal of energy will be focused on giving the school the resources needed to continue food education well into the future.
Learn more about FoodCorps at foodcorps.org
Edward Veenstra, Food to Institution Specialist