Farm to School and school gardens are hot topics these days, and what's
not to love? In an era where children increasingly identify their
"food source" as the take-out window, the Center for Disease Control
has singled out Farm to School as part of a community based solution to
the obesity epidemic. School gardens add to the solution by encouraging
physical activity, providing better food choices and leading to
healthier community environments, not to mention the educational
benefits of having a "living" classroom.  But according to Deb
Eschmeyer of the National Farm to School Network, many school
districts, though enthusiastic, simply "do not have the sweat equity
and the labor to pull it off."  Enter FoodCorps.

The vision for FoodCorps is to recruit young adults for a yearlong term
of public service in school food systems. Once stationed, FoodCorps
members will build Farm to School supply chains, expand food system and
nutrition education programs, and build and tend school food gardens.

The ultimate goal of the project is to increase the health and
prosperity of vulnerable children, while investing in the next
generation of farmers.

The seeds for FoodCorps as a program sprouted from a number of minds,
including IATP Food and Society Fellows, Curt Ellis and Deb Eschmeyer.
Deb attributes part of the development of the program to the Food and
Society Fellows program:

The Fellows were in a meeting brainstorming, and I said I wanted to
develop a FarmerCorps. Curt Ellis, class VI Fellow, was in the room and
his mind was plotting the same. So, we had a meeting in D.C. last year
in July, hosted by Neil Hamilton, to develop a FarmerCorps to help
create the next generation of farmers. The idea quickly morphed into
Food Corps: putting AmeriCorps members to work with Farm to School and
school gardens. The time is ripe with opportunities like Let’s Move and
The Edward M. Kennedy Serve American Act that passed in 2009; the Act
grows the service members in AmeriCorps from 75,000 people to 250,000
by 2017.

A 16-month planning process to develop FoodCorps began in January 2010,
supported by grants from AmeriCorps and the WK Kellogg Foundation. A
summit of 60 interested stakeholders took place in Detroit May 19-20,
and open conference calls to discuss the program are held on the first
Thursday of every month at 5pm ET.  The planning team's current focus
is on gathering input from the topic-specific work groups which focus
on things like member recruitment and site selection. According the
Curt Ellis, interest in the program is growing like a summer zuchini:
the mailing list has over 2,000 people, conference calls are averaging
65 people, and there are over 350 active work group participants, "including the 47 stalwart souls in Data and Evaluation."

The planning process is building toward submission of a proposal to
implement the FoodCorps concept, to be submitted to AmeriCorps and
program partners in January 2011.

Between the White House Garden and the USDA People's Garden Initiative,
the President's Task Force on Childhood Obesity, and the Let's Move
campaign, (not to mention the enormous popularity of Jamie Olliver),
the seeds are planted and the flood gates are opening. Deb Eschmeyer
often says that she wants FoodCorps to be "the Habitat for Humanity of
school food."  With your help, it just might happen.

For information about how to get involved, please visit www.food-corps.org.