FoodCorps Cultivates Healthy Food Systems through Youth Engagement

From foodtank.com, by Emma Tozer
FoodCorps Cultivates Healthy Food Systems through Youth Engagement

FoodCorps is making waves in youth engagement, impacting over 500 schools across 17 U.S. states and Washington, D.C. Having just welcomed its 5th generation of service members, FoodCorps encourages members’ collaboration with teachers, community leaders, and schools to provide children with knowledge of food and nutrition; engagement in hands-on food activities, like gardening; and access to nutritious, locally-sourced meals. The organization works to change attitudes, behaviors, perspectives, and school food environments throughout the United States. 

Food Tank had the opportunity to speak with Jerusha Klemperer, co-founder and communications director, at FoodCorps.

Food Tank (FT): How do you contribute to creating a better food system?

Jerusha Klemperer (JK): Our country is raising a generation of children that is overweight, vulnerable to diet-related disease, and ill-equipped to make good choices about food. FoodCorps is a nationwide team of AmeriCorps leaders who connect kids to real food and help them grow up healthy. These leaders are in limited-resource communities for a year of public service, where they teach hands-on lessons about food and nutrition; build and tend school gardens, and teach cooking lessons, and help change what’s on lunch trays giving kids healthy food from local farms. 

FT: What is a project, program, or result you are most proud of?

JK: This year our service members have already reached over 160,000 children with their programming. They've built or revitalized over 450 gardens, and harvested nearly 25,000 pounds of garden produce. All of that has gone into the mouths of their students, home in their backpacks, or donated to community food projects. They have also helped get 400 new healthy recipes into the cafeteria and held over 2,000 educational events there. They have done this in over 500 schools, in partnership with fantastic local organizations, and are helping their schools and communities find ways to make these programs sustainable in the long term.

FT: What are your goals for 2015 and beyond?

JK: In 2015, FoodCorps will be celebrating the arrival of its 5th cohort of AmeriCorps service members heading out into communities to make a difference for kids around the country. In addition, we will be expanding to New York City, and growing our corps overall to 205 members.

FT: In one sentence, what is the most important thing eaters and consumers can do today to support a more sustainable food system?

JK: We urge everyone—even if you're not a parent, or you're a parent who does not partake in the National School Lunch Program—to be invested in the program; what we feed our kids in this country affects their health and futures, as well as the health and future of the United States.

FT: How can individuals become more involved in your organization?

JK: There are many ways to get involved. You can apply to be a service member, look for volunteer opportunities with a local FoodCorps project, join our mailing list, follow us on social media, or make a donation. You can read more about all of those options on our website

Download the 2015 Good Food Org Guide HERE.