NC 4-H and The Center for Environmental Farming Systems are pleased to announce their role as hosts for FoodCorps, a new national AmeriCorps school garden and Farm to School service program, launching in 2011. North Carolina was chosen from 108 national applications as one of ten states—Arkansas, Arizona, Iowa, Massachusetts, Maine, Michigan, Mississippi, North Carolina, New Mexico, Oregon—from across the US to pilot the FoodCorps program. As a pioneer in applying the proven model of national service to the widening epidemic of childhood obesity, FoodCorps and the 10 chosen host sites are poised to improve the wellbeing of thousands of children in its first year and millions over the next decade.
The vision for National FoodCorps is to recruit young adults for a yearlong term of public service in school food systems. Utilizing the public service model of AmeriCorps, FoodCorps leverages federal funds to place young adults in high-need communities, with the mission of improving children’s knowledge and access to healthy food. FoodCorps also gives hands-on training to future farmers and food systems professionals. Nationwide FoodCorps recruitment and application process will begin in the spring of 2011 and members will be placed in NC and the other host states for the beginning of the 2011 school year.
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. Nationwide, FoodCorps will put 82 members on the ground in 10 states to work 139,400 hours during the 2011-2012 school year. 4-H and CEFS expect 8-10 NCFoodCorps members to be placed at 4 or 5 school locations across North Carolina contributing upwards of 1300 work hours, all in the service of healthier kids.
NC 4-H and CEFS have partnered with the Physical Activity and Nutrition branch of the Division of Public Health plus Extension offices, NGOs, and schools across the state to submit the NC application and in doing so formed a collaboration of organizations committed to increasing the capacity and success of school garden programs. Though many more schools and orgs were interested in participating, the collaborative and the host organizations chose five locations that will serve as the initial service sites in 2011 for NCFoodCorps. Additional partner organizations will support the overall project as well as serve as potential future service sites, and more partner organizations are encouraged and welcome.
- South Eastern North Carolina Food System, Brunswick and New Hanover Counties—Jane Steigerwald – create an economically-viable, regional food system that benefits all of the southeastern NC community
- Gaston County Coop. Ext—David Fogarty – teaching horticulture and nutrition in a hands-on, experiential way to improve the lives of 3rd grade children
- Communities in Schools, Moore County—Kathy Byron – cultivating student health and success through hands on, relevant and appropriate instruction contributing to healthy lifestyles for students & families
- Guilford County Coop. Ext—Karen Neill – teaching horticulture and nutrition concepts in a hands-on, experiential way to improve the lives of children
- Working Landscapes, Warren County—Carla Norwood – working with rural communities to envision and craft more sustainable, healthy, and prosperous futures and Working Lanscapes is please to be partnering with UNC Center for Health Promotion and Disease Prevention (HPDP), who works to reduce health disparities through an emphasis on community-based participatory research
For the youth who will work as NCFoodCorps members, we seek to facilitate the development of their skills and knowledge in through exposure and networking with the wealth of expertise across food sectors in NC, as well as through trainings and educational offerings around food system literacy, food production, food system programming, and advocacy for children’s wellness. This is above and beyond the hands-on, day-to-day experience they will receive working at their service sites.
At the school service sites, programming will include site-specific combinations of cross-curriculum, after-school and summer school programming as well as some policy work at the local level and beyond, but every school site will work in two or more of four areas:
1. Supporting curriculum-based school garden programs where children learn, understand, and directly experience the health and wellness benefits of sustainable growing practices on their bodies, their families, and their communities and garden teams bring parents and local volunteers into a community partnership with schools for successful, sustainable programs;
2. Facilitating farm to cafeteria pathways through farmer support and coordination with schools, sourcing local and sustainably grown produce into school cafeterias, demonstrate the financial benefit of purchasing local food, facilitating creative distribution and processing projects in schools, and policy work at the local and state level;
3. Implementing hands-on food and nutrition education in partner schools using a variety of existing curricula and increasing access to healthy food through snack programs using produce grown in school gardens and local farms, cooking classes/clubs on whole and seasonal foods, exposure to Chef programs, backpack buddy programs, and garden distributions to families;
4. Contributing to Statewide capacity building by engaging in community food assessments, program documentation, program evaluation, and/or research of health impacts of garden programs.
We intend for the NCFoodCorps to become one piece of our collaborative effort to increase the capacity in NC for healthy food infrastructure toward a local, sustainable food system. Assuming FoodCorps final approval from AmeriCorps in June of 2011, we will have FoodCorps members on the ground at the beginning of the 2011/2012 school year, and have a minimum three-year commitment from FoodCorps with an expected long term relationship plus expansion expectation. Our expected outcomes by the end of year three are
- shareable replicable program modules for schools addressing garden programming, cafeteria pathways, and nutrition education;
- hub school garden programs across all regions of the state providing pre-service and in-service training sites as well as mentoring models and facilities;
- increased training and employment opportunities for NC youth in school garden programs, plus exposure to a nationwide food system network, and access to continued career path opportunities within NC food system sectors; and
- community-based assessment tools plus collected data to provide concrete statewide numbers evidencing the specific health and wellness benefits of school garden and farm-to-school programming.
FoodCorps is a national AmeriCorps program that focuses on service in rural, urban, and suburban school food systems that have children challenged with high rates of obesity and limited access to healthy foods. Service members will build and tend school gardens, conduct hands-on nutrition education experiences, and facilitate Farm to School programming that brings high quality local food into public schools. FoodCorps, a New York based nonprofit organization, was developed with funding from AmeriCorps and the WK Kellogg Foundation, in partnership with Occidental College, the National Farm to School Network, Slow Food USA, The National Center for Appropriate Technology, and Wicked Delicate, as part of an open planning process engaging stakeholders from around the country. www.food-corps.org
ABOUT NC 4-H
4-H is a youth organization committed to building citizen leaders with marketable skills. The North Carolina 4-H Youth Development Program has long held a specific emphasis on cultivating another generation of youth engaged in sustainable agriculture, health and wellbeing. Statewide efforts include school gardens that foster a connection to nutrition through growing fruits and vegetables, building farm to school relationships, traditional 4-H community clubs focused on local foods, afterschool garden programs and youth agricultural entrepreneurial programs. The NC 4-H Youth Development Program is a program of the North Carolina Cooperative Extension Service involving adults and youth in all 100 counties and on the Qualla Boundary of the Cherokee Nation. www.nc4h.org
The Center for Environmental Farming Systems develops and promotes food and farming systems that protect the environment, strengthen local communities, and provide economic opportunties. CEFS was established in 1994 as a partnership between the two land grant universities, NCSU and NCA&TU, and the NC Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services (NCDA&CS) to serve as a center dedicated to sustainable agriculture research, extension, and education. CEFS developed its 2000 acre research farm in Goldsboro in 1996, still today one of the nation’s largest centers of sustainable farming practices. In 2008, CEFS launched a statewide, local, sustainable foods initiative in which more than 1000 North Carolinian’s participated. In addition to the state action guide “From Farm to Fork,” the initiative sparked the development of a statewide Food Council, the establishment of a local food representive in each county Extension office, and the development of a 10% Local Campaign. http://www.cefs.ncsu.edu
ABOUT DPH, Physical Activity and Nutrition Branch
The Physical Activity and Nutrition (PAN) Branch is housed in the Division of Public Health of North Carolina. The mission of PAN Branch is to, “Reverse the rising tide of obesity and chronic disease among North Carolinians by helping them to eat smart, move more and achieve a healthy weight.” The Branch is one of over 60 partner organizations supporting Eat Smart, Move More North Carolina, a statewide movement a that promotes increased opportunities for healthy eating and physical activity wherever people live, learn, earn, play and pray. http://www.ncpanbranch.com