Northeast Iowa will be a host site for a new national AmeriCorps school garden and farm to school service program called FoodCorps in 2011. The Midwest regional office of the National Center for Appropriate Technology (NCAT) has been selected as one of 10 host sites for the program.
(Media-Newswire.com) - Northeast Iowa will be a host site for a new national AmeriCorps school garden and farm to school service program called FoodCorps in 2011. The Midwest regional office of the National Center for Appropriate Technology ( NCAT ) has been selected as one of 10 host sites for the program.
Key partners with NCAT in developing and implementing the Iowa FoodCorps project are the Center for Energy and Environmental Education at the University of Northern Iowa and the Environmental Studies Department at Luther College as a partner of the Northeast Iowa Food and Fitness Initiative ( FFI ).
FoodCorps will serve vulnerable children, improving access to healthy, affordable food, while training young leaders for careers in food and agriculture. In addition, the program will provide expanded markets for local farmers.
Plans call for the Iowa FoodCorps program to place at least six AmeriCorps members in rural and urban school districts in Iowa during the 2011-2012 school year.
Luther College is excited and prepared to host the first troop of FoodCorps members in Iowa.
“FoodCorps will help FFI reach more young people with educational programming about healthy eating and where their food comes from. As research clearly shows, engaged learning of this sort is beneficial academically and also promotes healthy living habits,” says Jon Jensen, Director of Environmental Studies at Luther College.
FoodCorps service members will build and tend school gardens, conduct nutrition education, and increase the quality of the food served in the lunchroom. FoodCorps also aims to grow the next generation of farmers and food systems professionals through hands-on experience.
Continuing the work Locally, FoodCorps members will build upon the work in the region promoting access to healthy local foods and increasing opportunities for physical activity started by the Northeast Iowa Food and Fitness Initiative. FFI is one of nine national sites funded by the W.K. Kellogg Foundation Food and Community program, which invests in community-driven policy and system change projects.
During the 2009-10 school year, FFI launched a farm to school program in six school districts. FoodCorps service members will expand this program, which is now under the supervision of the Environmental Studies Department at Luther College with Iowa State University Extension and the Pepperfield Project as key partners.
More School Gardens “…This [upcoming] year more schools in our region are planning to build school gardens, conduct nutrition education in and outside the classroom and increase local healthy foods in the lunchroom by collaborating with food service staff and local producers,” says Brenda Ranum, FFI Co-Convener.
FoodCorps members will grow the most visual aspect of a farm-to-school effort— school gardens.
The Pepperfield Project, a community non-profit rooted in agrarian education, assists with the school gardens. Project director David Cavagnaro has also contracted with Luther College and Winneshiek Medical Center to create edible landscapes and produce gardens.
“FoodCorps volunteers' assistance should greatly enhance the Pepperfield Project's efforts to promote school gardens as part of our regional Farm to School program,” says Cavagnaro.
Part of school wellness In northeast Iowa, Farm to School efforts are being paired with increased opportunities for physical activity and promotion of general school wellness. FoodCorps members will join Jensen and a cadre of young leaders who shape Luther College’s School Wellness Outreach.
“With the leadership of our young adults, I am sure Northeast Iowa will continue to share what we are learning and what is working with others in the state and across the country,” says Ranum.
FFI’s work encompasses Allamakee, Chickasaw, Clayton, Fayette, Howard and Winneshiek counties, and FoodCorps members will reach nearly all schools in these counties. This multi-county approach and the statewide collaboration in planning caught the attention of the national FoodCorps planning team.
“Selecting just ten sites from 108 applicants and 22 finalists was an enormously challenging task,” said Cecily Upton, a Founder of FoodCorps. “All our finalists demonstrated a tremendous amount of need in the communities they serve, making the decision that much more difficult.”
As a pioneer in applying the proven model of national service to the widening epidemic of childhood obesity, FoodCorps is poised to improve the wellbeing of thousands of children in its first year and millions over the next decade.
“Luther College is thrilled to be a part of this exciting program. Our work on school wellness and local foods is a key element of Luther's community outreach as we strive for sustainability,” says Jensen.
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