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Annual Report 2021—2022

A back-to-classroom year committed to nourishing kids’ health, education, and sense of belonging.

In Summary

The 2021-2022 school year was marked by heightened anxiety, supply chain shortages, the exodus of educators, and the economic hit of the pandemic. Yet, we were encouraged to see our service and staff members assist in the recovery of in-person school and innovate to take food equity to the next level.

FoodCorps’ year of service gave more students—in areas where systemic racism and classism persist—access to enriching, learning experiences about food and culturally-affirming, nourishing meals. Beyond service, we mobilized our alumni, partner, and advocacy networks—centering BIMPOC* voices—to push for broader impact and policy change.

Thanks to the incredible support we received from our generous donors, school communities, and partners, this year also catalyzed the launch of our 2030 goal—where every child has access to hands-on food education and nourishing food in schools.

*BIMPOC: Black, Indigenous, Multiracial, and People of Color.

Impact in Schools

Student voting on the Jersey Sweet Potato Tasty Challenge organized by Service Members Sarah Feigelman and Julia Balsam.

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We’re in awe of the 200 AmeriCorps service members who spent their year providing food education to and supporting nourishing meals for more than 400,000 students and 251 schools across the country.

The number of lessons, taste tests, and gardens supported per service member exceeded or bounced back to pre-pandemic rates, demonstrating how service members went above and beyond this past school year. With new additions like our School Nutrition Service Member program—birthed in response to the unique needs of local communities—we helped fill more bellies with nutritious food and encouraged students to use their voice to influence cafeteria menu options.

“Schools are still hard places to be. Service member flexibility and resilience were off the charts this school year. They continually adjusted how they were showing up for students and working alongside maxed-out school staff to achieve real and tangible impacts in their schools.” — Aaron Poplack, FoodCorps Impact and Partnership Lead in Oregon.

59% of students increased their preferences for vegetables after receiving FoodCorps lessons.

  • Hands-on lessons
    25,182

    Hands-on lessons

  • Nourishing food tastings
    12,086

    Nourishing food tastings

  • Gardens supported
    396

    Gardens supported

  • New school menu items promoted
    1,000+

    New school menu items promoted

  • of school stakeholders valued FoodCorps programming
    91%

    of school stakeholders valued FoodCorps programming

  • of service members said students increased knowledge of healthy food
    87%

    of service members said students increased knowledge of healthy food

  • of district partners said students improved food growing skills
    78%

    of district partners said students improved food growing skills

Stories of Service

Celebrating Culture, Community, and the Future of Food Education
Annual Report 2021—2022
Students harvesting potatoes at Talbot Community School in Portland, Maine.

We have partnered with schools in Maine since our inaugural program year, 2011. Communities here celebrate culture, each other, and long-term investments in nutrition education. In Portland, where there is a large population of Central and East African community members, high school students took part in tastings of African-influenced lunch items. This was made possible by a grant written by the service site, Cultivating Community, with support from FoodCorps Service Member Mercia Ckaba Thomas, as well as the district’s decision to contract mobile African food market leader Khadija Ahmed and school nutrition consultant Samantha Cowens-Gasbarro. In Eustis, Maine, FoodCorps Service Member Erin Greatorex helped Stratton School host its annual community meal—a lunch prepared entirely by students and featuring local harvests that fed more than 150 parents, educators, kids, and school staff.

As a testament to the power of partnership, Portland Public Schools graduated from FoodCorps’ service program during the 2021-2022 school year. Service Member Lilly Kendall helped create a transition plan and supported the district’s planning, including preparation to hire five full-time, fully-funded garden educators to provide garden classes to every student across five elementary schools.

When Curiosity Leads to Choice
Annual Report 2021—2022
Service Member Alexis Maresca’s sixth grader making homemade corn tortillas at bake club. (Bridgeport, CT)

When every student at Thomas Hooker School in Connecticut wrote Service Member Alexis Maresca a farewell card, mentioning their favorite lesson, food tasting, or moment in the garden, she knew that she—alongside partner Green Village Initiative—made a real difference in their lives. Whether teaching her students about food justice, the benefits of eating phytonutrients, composting, or sensory observation, she found great joy in watching how their curiosity and excitement translated to a greater sense of choice and empowerment. Alexis recalls her favorite memories from the year: second graders enthusiastically identifying the sprouts of the seeds they planted, students requesting seconds after tasting lettuce and island peppers from a local farm, classes—by choice—picking up garbage around the entire school after a family beautification day at the school garden, and a sixth grader—who was previously uninterested in food or participation—trying everything and eventually joining bake club after a transformative taste test.

“Your influence is powerful.” — A surprised teacher who texted Alexis after her class requested hummus and veggies at a pizza party following a hummus lesson and tasting.

A Return to Tradition Honors Culture and Creates Learning Opportunities
Annual Report 2021—2022
A small team at Santa Fe Indian School creating waffle gardens, an Indigenous grow method. (Sante Fe, NM)

In just a few years, New Mexico’s Santa Fe Indian School has returned to traditional farming methods used by students in the late 1800s. Originally founded as a boarding school to assimilate Native children, Sante Fe Indian School was turned over to be held in trust for the 19 Pueblo Governors of New Mexico in 2000. Under the guidance of the school’s Director of Wellness, Maria Brock, an acre of land was set aside for farming. A small team–including local farmers, two school staff, and FoodCorps Service Member Jennifer Hill–went to work creating eight raised garden beds, in-ground gardens using traditional gardening methods like waffle gardens—a practice of the Zuni Pueblo—and planting crops, including melons, blue corn, and red amaranth, which are all used in traditional Indigenous cooking.

“So much has been accomplished in just a few years due in part to a true commitment to understanding and respecting the rich culture, wisdom and history of the community,” shares Alicia Chavez, New Mexico Impact and Partnerships Lead. Upcoming plans include building outdoor ovens, or “hornos,” that will enable students to prepare foods using a traditional method.

The Power of Being
Annual Report 2021—2022
Service Member Kevion Young harvesting sweet potatoes, a staple food in the Mississippi Delta. (Leland, MS)

“I am here being for my students who I needed when I was a kid,” shared Mississippi Service Member Kevion Young. Born and raised in the Mississippi Delta, Kevion has deep ties and a strong commitment to the community. When Kevion noted the stressors impacting children as a result of the pandemic, he taught students emotional regulation strategies, including how to use herbs like basil they had grown in their school garden to make tea to calm themselves when feeling anxious or upset. He also introduced children to meditation—a practice they requested to take part in regularly. While the pandemic brought challenges, Kevion noted that it “helped us to slow down, really check in with each other, and remember the importance of the ‘BE’ in ‘human being.’ I am grateful to honor the humanity in the children I work with and be able to use nature and holistic practices that remind them to simply be.”

With their spirits and minds balanced, students would often turn to Kevion for energizing, plant-based smoothies made with ingredients grown in their garden to nourish their bodies.

Stocking Staples Despite Supply Chain Struggles
Annual Report 2021—2022
School Nutrition Service Member Abigail Pierce conducting a local sweet potato and chickpea taste test at East Jackson Elementary School in Georgia. (Commerce, GA)

Abigail Pierce, a School Nutrition Service Member, found herself facing down a unique challenge in her first year of service: strained supply chains. The costs of meat and poultry were skyrocketing, and plastic and paper containers were scarce. What’s a service member to do? Abigail helped build new relationships with local farmers to keep beef and pork—Southern staples for the kids in her Georgia community—stocked and on the school lunch menu. More specifically, she worked with Potts Bros Farm to supply her schools with hamburger meat and a custom-created sausage patty that reflect the National School Lunch Program’s dietary guidelines, which her schools must meet with every meal they serve.

“We have seen about a 32% increase in student participation in student meals since 2019, our last school year before all meals were free due to the waivers,” says Abigail.

A student harvesting carrots at Parson Hills Elementary School in Arkansas.

Innovation for Greater Impact

Bodies Are For Celebrating

Today’s kids receive countless messages about bodies: what’s too big or too small, what’s healthy or not healthy. Leaning into body positivity and dismantling diet culture are imperative for fostering positive relationships with food.

This year, service members Marina Belotserkovskaya, Kencho Gurung, Stephanie Muldrew, and Kacie Schrum created How to Make Friends With a Carrot, a children’s book celebrating friendship, body positivity, and cultural differences. Thanks to the leadership of the Service Member Action Committee (SMAC)—a group created to lift the voices of service members, especially those from BIMPOC and LGBTQ+ communities—service members received a copy of the book to help lead equitable, justice-centered conversations about body image.

“[We] felt it was important to provide future service members with a tool that would support them in navigating body positivity conversations with students and in spreading the message of appreciating and loving all body types,” SMAC members said.

Building Capacity in School Nutrition

Launched in the fall of 2021, FoodCorps’ School Nutrition Service Member (SNSM) pilot program supported district-level initiatives driving nourishing meals and nutrition education for every student. In the program’s pilot year, 19 school nutrition service members supported 13 district partners in five states: California, Michigan, Georgia, Massachusetts, and New Jersey. Our partners shared that the biggest value these members add is cross-departmental collaboration: they fill a critical gap between K-12 education and school nutrition and help build systems that previously lacked capacity to develop.

“Our service member wanted to offer smoothies at lunchtime, and despite doubts from others, she and I did a taste test one day—the kids got so excited about them. We wound up totally flipping, going from breakfast in the classroom to grab-and-go breakfast. It increased our participation by about 100 kids.”
— Donna Martin, School Nutrition Program Director at Burke County Board of Education in Georgia.

Annual Report 2021—2022
Service Member Olivia Bertels with her students in Springdale, Arkansas.

Growing Food Champions

Every move in a service member’s journey, from service application to entry into our alumni program, is integral to developing diverse leaders in food equity. This year, we placed 31 percent more BIMPOC service members, paid our service members near the top of the AmeriCorps pay scale, provided 175-plus training sessions, and offered new opportunities, including a mentorship program within our network of leaders of color working in school nutrition that connected school nutrition veterans with folks just starting in the field. A mentor-mentee pair from the program shared their experience:

“I gained a better understanding of how farm to school procurement looks at a larger scale/ in bigger school districts and saw the benefit of having BIMPOC leadership in practice.”

—Kelli Kimura, FoodCorps Alumna ‘22

“Being a mentor gives me insight into the future leaders of our industry. If Kelli is an indicator of the next generation of leaders, our students and food systems are in good hands.”

—Vince Caguin, Executive Director of Nutrition Services and Warehousing, Natomas USD, CA

  • of service members are satisfied/very satisfied with their experience
    83%

    of service members are satisfied/very satisfied with their experience

  • of service members local to their community
    73%

    of service members local to their community

  • of alumni enter jobs in the food or education sector
    71%

    of alumni enter jobs in the food or education sector

  • of alumni are working in a leadership role
    51%

    of alumni are working in a leadership role

Career support continues beyond their service. This past year, 1,400-plus of our total alumni network had access to virtual career fairs, grant opportunities, and multiple ways to stay connected to values-aligned partners.

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Alumni Profiles

FoodCorps Service Member Maria Karas holding school-grown, hydroponic lettuce harvested for a school-wide taste test. (New Haven, CT)

Growing a Career From Service

More than two-thirds of FoodCorps alumni move into mission-advancing careers, like education and school nutrition. Many even continue working in the same communities—like Maria Karas, a FoodCorps alum who was hired by New Haven Public Schools Food Services as a Dietetic Assistant after two years of service with the Connecticut district. As a FoodCorps service member, Maria championed student voice and choice in the classroom and cafeteria, offered schoolwide taste tests, and provided hands-on garden education. As a nutrition assistant, she’ll support taste tests and menu development, and get feedback from kids about what they want to see on the menu. Her most popular taste test? A three sisters chili, made with corn, beans, and squash, that she hopes will make its way to the school menu.

“There are so many little moments that are a part of me now,” Maria says. “I don’t think I’m the same person I was when I started service two years ago.”

FoodCorps alum LaBria Lane partnering with a Dirt Therapy program in Flint, Michigan.

Extra Love Going a Long Way

Heart bound to kids and boots planted in soil, FoodCorps alum (MI ‘15-17) and farmer LaBria Lane just wrapped up a year of food and garden education—this time educating kids of incarcerated parents at her farm, MarySam’s Garden. Partnering with Sgt. Stephanie J. Shannon, LaBria understood that these kids just needed a little extra time and care. Years prior, she joined FoodCorps as an experienced farmer—the teaching came naturally to her. “The kids and I were alike and from the same side of town, so our connection was meaningful. I took my job very seriously. I will always remember Holmes Stem Academy where the kids who got in trouble and were considered behaviorally challenged would always come find me in the school garden. It became a neutral, therapeutic place—those kids just needed more love,” says LaBria, who is currently taking some much-needed time for herself before returning to serve the community.

Annual Report 2021—2022
Tara McDaniels, FoodCorps Arkansas alum, with a Farm to School chalkboard sign. FoodCorps Arkansas is a member of the Arkansas Farm to School Collaborative in conjunction with the Arkansas Department of Agriculture.

Advocacy in Action

Backed by evidence-based programming and a strong network of education and school nutrition leaders, our policy recommendations have positioned FoodCorps as a leader paving the way to ensure access to food education and nourishing food for all 50 million school students by 2030. We’ve seen substantial momentum in federal and state policy changes that result in real impact on kids, like increased access to free school meals and resources expanding farm to school initiatives. FoodCorps is setting the stage for federal progress, especially with opportunities like informing the agenda of the White House Conference on Hunger, Nutrition, and Health in 2022. It’s an honor to bring the voice of the community to decision-makers who can pass legislation and bring programs to life that nourish every student’s future.

Collaboration Behind Policy Change

01

Well Fed and Farm Fed

On behalf of FoodCorps and the MA Food for MA Kids Coalition, Massachusetts Program Manager Rebecca Kelley testified before the state legislature to advocate for a permanent state farm to school grants program and universal school meals. “In Massachusetts, Black and Latine students disproportionately reside in under-resourced school districts. This program can help to address inequities in our food and education systems by empowering schools and programs to modernize kitchens, train their staff, and buy local produce,” says Rebecca, who will now help support the implementation after the program was awarded $1 million. Massachusetts also extended free school meals for its 400,000 students in the 2021-2022 school year. Hear Rebecca’s powerful testimony at 1:33 here.

02

A Triumph for Garden Education

In a tough year of competitive funding, Oregon’s Farm to School program maintained $10 million in state funds, institutionalizing government funding for local procurement in school meals and increasing access to hands-on food and garden education. Thanks to dedicated advocacy by a collaborative policy workgroup that includes FoodCorps, what was once a $200,000 pilot program in 2011 is now the backbone of Oregon’s farm to school landscape. FoodCorps Impact and Partnership Lead Aaron Poplack explains: “As part of the policy workgroup, we gather case studies and letters of support each legislative session to advocate for continued funding. It’s not just about school meals, but what goes into them.” The workgroup will next focus on ensuring the program is implemented equitably.

03

Connecticut Grown for Connecticut Kids

FoodCorps spread its roots in Connecticut in 2012 and began engaging in conversations with other organizations. This sparked an interest in getting healthy, local foods served directly to students. Through thoughtful partnerships with state agencies, anti-hunger groups, and food systems organizations, a few years later the Connecticut Farm to School Collaborative was established. Members met with legislative champions and shared stories about the impact of farm to school, eventually testifying before the Education Committee. In 2021, their work paid off. The CT Grown for CT Kids Grant Program was launched with $500,000 of federal funding. This video recounts the key relationships and critical moments that led to this victory.

Carrying Voices Uphill to Congress

FoodCorps raised its policy voice and harnessed grassroots advocacy in a more robust and intentional way than ever before. In a year of critical advocacy—including School Meals for All, Build Back Better, and Child Nutrition Reauthorization (CNR)—and the first White House Conference in over 50 years on Hunger, Nutrition, and Health, we built a following of engaged policy champions to take action. With the help of call-to-action software, FoodCorps alerted stakeholders and community members to sign petitions, send letters to their members of Congress, and share their stories directly with legislators. Additionally, FoodCorps state staff, alumni, and site/school partners participated in nearly two dozen meetings with their respective senators and representatives. In the summer of 2022, FoodCorps hosted three regional listening sessions to uplift the voices of school nutrition leaders in preparation for the White House Conference. The conversations resulted in FoodCorps publishing a report—detailing policy recommendations informed by our school nutrition partners—that influenced the agenda of the Conference.

  • (+47% from previous year)
    6,558

    ADVOCATES

    (+47% from previous year)

  • (+6.4% from previous year)
    5,358

    ACTIONS

    (+6.4% from previous year)

  • (+79% from previous year)
    3,299

    SUBSCRIBERS

    (+79% from previous year)

Annual Report 2021—2022
New Jersey FoodCorps Alum Rachel Terry featured on a Newman’s Own pizza box.

Partner Spotlight: Newman’s Own Foundation

FoodCorps has been partnering with Newman’s Own Foundation, founded by actor Paul Newman, for nearly a decade. This year, which marks $600 million in donations to thousands of organizations—as well as the foundation’s 40th anniversary—Newman’s Own Foundation announced a more focused philanthropic mission of nourishing and transforming the lives of kids who face adversity. On top of monetary donations, Newman’s Own is amplifying FoodCorps’ work by telling our stories on select food packaging. “We are proud of our longstanding relationship with FoodCorps and of the critical work they do to advance food education and influence access of nourishing meals in schools. We look forward to a continued evolution of our work,” says Miriam Nelson, President and CEO of Newman’s Own Foundation.

Building a More Just FoodCorps

A closer look at FoodCorps’ anti-racism journey, finances, and leadership.

FoodCorps hosts its first in-person retreat for Black staff in FoodCorps’ Onyx Crown Collective.

Charting Our Equity Journey

At FoodCorps, we’re working toward an ambitious goal: By 2030, every child will have access to food education and nourishing food in school. If we are to achieve this goal, we must center equity, diversity, and inclusion (EDI) in all we do.

This is the second edition of FoodCorps’ annual EDI report, a look at our efforts—and shortcomings—in making our work and our world more just and equitable. To learn more about the creation of this report, we recommend reviewing our first EDI report, which shares more context about the role of EDI in the first ten years of our organization.

—Dr. Robert S. Harvey, who joined FoodCorps in 2022 as the organization's first president.

“The colonization-authored, enslavement-legislated crisis of food injustice, inequity, and isolation that continues to affect our children challenges us as an organization to find our place of contribution toward that central question of our national identity: do we desire to realize justice for all, or a republic for the few?”

Annual Report 2021—2022
Dr. Robert S. Harvey

Our Financials

The figures presented here are the unaudited financials for the 12-month fiscal period from August 1, 2021 to July 31, 2022. Total Revenues reflects unrestricted revenue and revenue released from restriction. FoodCorps received a one-time gift of $15 million from MacKenzie Scott.

Statement of Financial Position

AssetsFY22
Current Assets
Checking and Savings24,074,598
Accounts Receivable9,884,954
Other Current Assets232,675
Fixed Assets169,518
Other Assets23,723
Total Assets34,385,468
Liabilities and Net Assets
Liabilities
Accounts Payable92,030
Credit Card Charges78,766
Other Liabilities1,245,292
Total Liabilities1,416,088
Net Assets
Temporarily Restricted Net Assets11,543,392
Income and Unrestricted Net Assets21,425,988
Total Net Assets32,969,380
Total Liabilities and Equity34,385,468

Statement of Activities

Revenues
Corporate5,593,401
Foundation1,897,767
Government2,744,001
Individual21,941,437
Program Service Fees1,206,610
Total Revenues33,383,216
Expenses
Service Member Stipends and Benefits4,988,460
Staff Salaries and Benefits9,698,697
Contract Services665,321
Marketing and Communications149,115
Grants to Other Organizations61,000
Nonpersonnel Expenses566,264
Facilities and Equipment583,326
Travel and Meetings408,310
Other Expenses167,809
Total Expenses17,288,302
Net Income16,094,914

Expenses by Department

Program73.91%
Operations (Administration)9.76%
Development (Fundraising)16.33%
100%

Our Supporters

FoodCorps is beyond grateful to all our supporters and partners in the 2021–2022 program year who also believe in the power of food in schools to nourish the future of every student. Below are the key corporate, foundation, and government partners who made our work possible. We are also honored by the generous support of the many families and individuals (although not listed here) who help advance our food equity work. Ensuring that all 50 million school kids learn about food and have access to nourishing, free meals by 2030 is possible if each of us continues to bring our heart and influence to this collective mission. Thank you for being here at the table.

FoodCorps Service Member Lacey Fletcher harvesting squash with elementary school students in Cedarville, Arkansas.

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Thank you to our contributors: report design by Hiker; photography by Ian Douglas and Rochelle Li; additional photos and videos courtesy of subjects.
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Student rolling and making homemade corn tortillas in Raices Del Saber in Las Cruces, NM.