MSU Extension hosts FoodCorps service members, supports farm-to-school program

Childhood hunger and childhood obesity may seem to be opposite problems, but both may be caused by a lack of healthy food. Schools may be just the place to help prevent both problems.

FoodCorps is a nationwide team of AmeriCorps leaders who collaborate with communities to make schools a healthier place for kids to eat, learn and grow. FoodCorps aims to let all children know what healthy food is, where it comes from and how it keeps them healthy. In the process of helping children, FoodCorps service members gain experience for future careers in the food and health services.

In this new program year, FoodCorps has 205 service members placed with over 500 schools in 17 states and Washington, D.C. Michigan is one of those states.

Michigan State University Extension in Grand Traverse County is a local FoodCorps Michigan service site. Our organization hosts FoodCorps service member Mikaela Taylor who along with Stephanie Cumper, hosted by the Groundwork Center for Resilient Communities (formerly the Michigan Land Use Institute), is busy building partnerships with food service workers, farmers, school administrators, teachers, parents and community members. They are using a team approach to support farm-to-school programming in Grand Traverse and Benzie counties.

MSU Extension Health and Nutrition Institute educator Sarah Eichberger serves as the site supervisor for Mikaela at the Traverse City FoodCorps service site. FoodCorps service members have been in Traverse City since the founding of the program five years ago. This is the first year that Groundworks and MSU Extension Grand Traverse County are working jointly to host and provide leadership to service members.

The two service members and their service sites took part in the September 11th National Day of Service and Remembrance, partnering with the Father Fred Foundation to organize a garden restoration project that will provide the Father Fred food pantry in Traverse City with fresh local produce.

In addition, MSU Extension hosts a FoodCorps service site in Chippewa County. MSU Extension Greening Michigan Institute educator Michelle Walk supervises FoodCorps service member Jeannette Cushway.

Terry McLean, MSU Extension Greening Michigan Institute educator has served as the host site supervisor for the FoodCorps Michigan program on behalf of the Community Food Systems work team since 2013.

Terry says that the FoodCorps National Service Program touches all of the core work areas of MSU Extension through teaching school-aged children about healthy food, encouraging healthy eating habits, assisting in development of school gardens and sourcing healthy food for school cafeterias.

In addition, FoodCorps service members get back what they give.

“As service members perform a year of paid public service alongside educators and community leaders in high-need schools across Michigan communities, leadership skills emerge, preparing them for a range of future careers in education, food and health services,” Terry said.

Read this MSU Extension News article by Sarah Eichberger, which tells more about the work of FoodCorps and the two service members working in Grand Traverse and Benzie counties: http://msue.anr.msu.edu/news/northwest_michigan_welcomes_two_new_foodcorps_service_members

Also read this MSU Extension News article by Terry McLean, which gives a great overview of FoodCorps as well as FoodCorps Michigan: http://msue.anr.msu.edu/news/foodcorps_michigan_cultivating_healthy_kids_through_healthy_school_diets

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