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FoodCorps Highlight: Growing Healthy Kids in Today’s Food Landscape

March 14, 2016
By: Stephanie Loui, FoodCorps Hawaiʻi Service Member

Ever feel like a one-man army in the battle to get healthy food in keiki bellies? You’re not alone. In a world of convenience, limited budgets, and a startling array of processed food options, it can be hard to navigate and choose the healthiest and tastiest options. For students receiving the ‘ĀINA In Schools curriculum, many of these questions are addressed through nutrition, garden, and composting education. However, the reality is that at least for now, ‘AINA cannot reach every student in the state.

Luckily, there are other like-minded programs out there to address childhood health and wellness. One such program, FoodCorps, came to Hawaiʻi three years ago through a partnership with the Kohala Center and the determination of longtime advocate and educator, Nancy Redfeather. FoodCorps and its partners help to fund and place garden and nutrition educators with nonprofits and schools that have identified readiness to grow their programs. This year, Kokua Hawaiʻi Foundation joined the fold and received its first FoodCorps service member, Steph!

FoodCorps is an emerging 501(c)(3) with the mission of increasing kids’ access to healthy, nutritious food. Since its genesis five years ago, FoodCorps has tripled in capacity, deploying over 200 nutrition and garden educators across 17 states. With service members teaching in high-need areas across the country, FoodCorps seeks to connect communities to their food system, work towards food sovereignty, and cultivate an appreciation for whole, close to the source foods.  The program looks different in every service site but the core ideal of creating a nourishing, healthy environment for children remains the same.

FoodCorps is the product of an ongoing dialogue amongst health advocates concerned with a steadily “growing” population. With consistently rising numbers for childhood obesity, diabetes, heart disease, and other health risks associated with diet and physical health, programs like FoodCorps seek to intervene on the preventative end, before children become trapped by eating patterns they may have never had the chance to understand. FoodCorps partners with schools, non-profits and community leaders to permeate the food system at every level, from school lunch procurement to community farming, to nutrition and sustainability education from kindergarten through high school. Service members are provided with a wealth of training opportunities, beginning with a week-long orientation in Portland, OR where professionals in the field lead workshops, talks, and courses in classroom management, garden curriculum building and more. Additionally, service members can take advantage of professional development funds, regional events, and of course, hands-on learning within their organizations and schools. To learn more about FoodCorps or to apply for the 2016-17 school year, visit FoodCorp’s website. The deadline to apply is March 31st, 2016.

This movement cannot stop here. Programs like ‘ĀINA In Schools and FoodCorps are just a few ways to help change the food system and if you’re looking for more, check out this great list by Civil Eats for a comprehensive breakdown of various programs and job opporutinities. You can also browse Good Food Jobs for listings outside of Hawaiʻi and of course, if you aren’t already, BECOME AN ‘ĀINA DOCENT!

It’s never too late to plant the seed in the minds and bellies of our future.

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