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School to farm to school:
a FoodCorps odyssey

It's one thing to make a documentary about food policy and the politics of obesity. It's another thing to become part of the solution.

Curt Ellis ’02 and Ian Cheney ’02, ’03MEM, accomplished the first part with their 2007 film, King Corn, in which they grew a single acre of corn to explore the absurd economics of US agriculture. Now they are trying to accomplish the latter with FoodCorps, a nonprofit that works with schoolkids across the country to grow—and, they hope, eat—healthy foods.

"When Ian and I packed up the old Dodge and drove away from our cornfield in Iowa, I remember feeling a pit in my stomach," Ellis recalls via an e-mail message from FoodCorps cofounder and communications director Jerusha Klemperer. "We’d made a film about the problems in food and agriculture in America—but we hadn’t done much to help those problems get better."

They decided to start with children, who suffer obesity, and associated health problems, at alarming rates. FoodCorps, part of the AmeriCorps national service program, stations 125 "service members" in yearlong positions at schools around the country. "Working under the direction of local partner organizations," they "teach kids about what healthy food is and where it comes from; build and tend school gardens; and bring high-quality local food into public school cafeterias," the group's website says.

The school-cafeteria aspect forms a natural juncture with the US Department of Agriculture, which this month announced a partnership with FoodCorps. That allowed the organization to add 40 service members this year, Klemperer says.

Now that it requires schools to serve more fruits and vegetables, "the USDA is really keen on making sure that the new foods are actually getting eaten by kids, instead of thrown in the trash," she writes. "They see farm to school—and FoodCorps in particular—as a way to help that. Kids who grow, taste and learn about fruits and vegetables in a hands on way are more likely to eat them."

It's too late to plant pumpkins for this year's Thanksgiving pie—but maybe next year.

Filed under FoodCorps, service programs
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