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USDA Partners with FoodCorps to Grow Healthy Eaters

Ed. Note: This blog was originally posted on www.usda.gov. To view the full post, click here.

They are t-shirted and tilling up soil in schools across the country. And this year, thanks to a new partnership, FoodCorps service members have USDA at their side.

FoodCorps is a national service organization that places emerging leaders in schools across the country to teach kids about what healthy food is and where it comes from, build and tend school gardens, and bring high-quality local food into schools participating in the National School Lunch and/or School Breakfast Programs.


FoodCorps service member Dennis Lackey gardening with children in Flint, MI. (Photo credit: Robyn Wardell)

USDA is pleased to support the FoodCorps model; their recipe for success includes three main ingredients:

KNOWLEDGE: FOOD AND NUTRITION EDUCATION
FoodCorps teaches kids about healthy food and where it comes from.

The typical elementary student receives an average of just 3.4 hours of nutrition education in a year, yet they watch more television than that in a typical day. FoodCorps service members work with teachers to increase the quantity of nutrition and agricultural education children receive, while dramatically improving its quality through an emphasis on hands-on learning.

ENGAGEMENT: SCHOOL GARDENS
FoodCorps increases agricultural literacy and gives kids the skills to grow and cook good food.
Gardens are gateways. Studies demonstrate that children who have grown a fruit or vegetable themselves are far more likely to try it, breaking down an important barrier to healthy eating. Gardens serve as gateways for communities, too, providing a space for parents, teachers and volunteers to come together to learn about food and agriculture.

ACCESS: LOCAL PROCUREMENT
FoodCorps helps schools purchase food for school meals from local farmers.
The National School Lunch Program represents a $10 billion annual market for farmers, daily nutrients for 32 million kids, and an opportunity for sustainable economic development for communities. FoodCorps service members forge relationships between school food service directors and local farmers who can supply healthy ingredients at scale, filling lunch trays with food from the farm, and educating kids about food production in the process.

The current class of FoodCorps participants includes 125 service members devoting a year of national service to helping children develop lifelong relationships with healthy food. Service members are placed at 108 sites across 15 states in some 300 schools.

FoodCorps results last year were impressive. Service members reached over 67,000 children, built or revitalized over 400 school gardens, organized over 3,000 volunteers, and donated over 29,000 pounds of produce to local communities.

Imagine how much more we can do together this year.


FoodCorps service member Kirsten Gerbatsch samples garden produce with children in Traverse City, MI. (Photo credit: Kelly Campbell)

Editor’s Note: How do the schools in YOUR community bring the farm to school? Please make sure your district is counted by accessing the USDA Farm to School Census results online. USDA will be accepting additional submissions to the Census through November 30, 2013. To receive information and updates about USDA’s Farm to School Program, please sign up for our Farm to School E-letter.