Meet FoodCorps ALUMNI

 

FoodCorps alumni represent a pipeline of talent for a range of nutrition education, school food jobs, and other careers tied to improving the health of our nation’s children. After their FoodCorps service is finished, we continue to train and support them, offer funding for their projects, and provide opportunities for them to share their expertise with current corps members.

Stephanie Lip Bay2Tray_School Food ServiceStephanie Lip

Supervisor of Nutrition Services at Monterey Peninsula Unified School District

Stephanie Lip is a 2011 to 2012 FoodCorps alumna from Brooklyn, New York. Her experience as a FoodCorps service member opened her eyes to the possibilities of using her training in culinary nutrition (at Johnson and Wales) to connect kids with healthy food. After serving in Arizona with Tohono O’odham Community Action (TOCA), Stephanie was hired to join the TOCA staff as the Food Services Development Coordinator, analyzing existing school food systems to implement scratch-cooking and culturally-appropriate meal programs for this close-knit indigenous community. After two years with TOCA, she became the Culinary Specialist and the the Supervisor of Nutrition Services at Monterey Peninsula Unified School District, in California. At MPUSD, she is working with a motivated and enthusiastic team to prepare and serve student-approved quality scratch-made meals with locally sourced foods.

“FoodCorps really was my stepping stone into the real food world. I learned truths of our broken food system, but gained networks, tools, and knowledge about how I could put my energy and background towards something meaningful to myself and others.”

Rachel Spencer

Southwest Regional Farm to School Lead, USDA
Presidential Management Fellow

Rachel Spencer PigsRachel earned her undergraduate degree in public health from the University of Georgia, which served as her springboard for a career in healthy food and sustainable food systems. As an undergraduate she interned at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s Environmental Health Services Branch, helped found UGA’s Office of Sustainability, and started her university’s Real Food Challenge chapter. With FoodCorps she served in Arkansas in the rural Ozark Mountains. Smitten with the rivers and people of Arkansas, she stayed after her service term to continue to build FoodCorps Arkansas as the FoodCorps fellow. Rachel recently earned her masters in agricultural economics from the University of Arkansas. While in school Rachel was a founding member of Associated Student Government’s Graduate Student Congress as well as a member of the FoodCorps Policy Institute.

“FoodCorps taught me what it means to have the courage to believe in a vision for a better world, and equipped me with the skills to build it. Nowhere will you make friends with a network of leaders that are more passionate, grounded, and sincere.”

Tiffany Torres

Northwest District Food Systems Coordinator, University of Florida/IFAS Extension, Farm to School and Farm to Community team

Over the past few years, FoodCorps has guided me from coast to coast - from professional development trainings in Oregon, to national conferences in Austin, to two years of inspiring service alongside urban communities in Connecticut. In this short amount of time, I have acquired a sense of interconnectedness amongst the FoodCorps family that knows no geographical boundaries. Nowhere recently was this sense of connection and comradery more evident to me than at the South/Central Midyear Gathering in Athens, Georgia. There, in the South of the South, I was greeted with a familiar air of warmth and hospitality. Having recently returned to my home state of Florida to work with the UF/IFAS Extension Farm to School team, I found solace in reconnecting with my colleagues over the myriad of unique challenges (and occasional successes!) inherent to working with food in the South. Later, while clearing land at a local urban farm, we reminded one another to honor the small things both in life and in service, acknowledging that many small acts combined make great impact. And finally, as the week came to a close, I found that a simple quote from one of the evening’s last inspirational Food Chat’s resonated strongly with my experience at this midyear gathering: “Stay close to anything that makes you glad you’re alive.” The return home to Florida felt a little shorter knowing that no matter where we all may roam, FoodCorps family is always close by. In health in harvest! - Tiffany Torres, FC CT alum and current Food Systems Coordinator for Leon County Extension

After serving for two years with FoodCorps in New Haven, Connecticut, Tiffany was eager to fly South to her home State of Florida in order to create lasting change in her own community. As an employee of Florida’s SNAP-Ed implementation agency, Tiffany collaborates with local, state, and national partners, whereby creating meaningful policy, systems, and environmental changes that encourage lifelong healthy eating habits for Florida’s limited resource residents.

Tiffany also now serves on our Alumni Council, helping to guide the development of our program and do alumni outreach

“I find it quite encouraging that full-time, salaried positions with benefits such as mine are being created at the county and state level throughout the country! I think the fact that this position exists at all is evidence that the good food movement is growing and that FoodCorps’ impact is greater than we may sometimes realize—even in the states that we do not (yet) serve.”

Miya Nixon

Garden Teacher, Teacher’s Aide, Walker Jones Elementary

Miya NixonMiya is a nature loving D.C. native who loves to spend time in the sun. She served with FoodCorps for two years with DC Greens at the Walker Jones Education Campus. Following her service, she was hired by her school, Walker Jones Elementary, to be a food and garden teacher. She loves to explore and learn more about gardening, while teaching young students and the community about healthy eating, and building connections with the environment. She loves to cook, attend local farmers markets, and thrift shop.

“FoodCorps gave me the training and platform I needed to connect my interests, skills, beliefs, and goals, and gave me the confidence to serve my community for years to come.”

Ally Mrachek

Child Nutrition Director, Fayetteville Public Schools

After serving a year with FoodCorps in Fayetteville, Arkansas, Ally was hired by the school district she served with. As nutrition supervisor, Ally managed local procurement and assisted with training kitchen staff, planning menus, and marketing healthy foods. After serving in that capacity for two years, she was promoted to Child Nutrition Director. By cultivating such excitement around local produce, Fayetteville Public Schools is setting an example in the region that it supports.

“FoodCorps prepared me by providing an opportunity to gain additional professional skills and unique school nutrition experience that made me competitive fro the job I have today.”

Destiny Schlinker

Program Manager, Apple Seeds of NW Arkansas

Destiny SchlinkerDestiny fell in love with outdoor education at Heifer International’s Ranch. She then moved to Ecuador, where she furthered her farming skills. Her undergraduate thesis, “Service Learning: A Mixture of Soil and Seminar,” challenges schools to utilize local resources and engage students. After two years as a FoodCorps Service Member in Springdale, Arkansas, Destiny joined Apple Seeds of NW Arkansas as their Program Manager. There she oversees all educational programs, including school garden markets, clubs, teacher workshops and farm field trips. She enjoys building new programs and working hand-in hand with AmeriCorps members to get students excited about fruits and vegetables.

“As a FoodCorps member I got to play many diverse roles. I was a chicken farmer, gardener, Kindergarten teacher, singer, grant writer, soil enthusiast, and more. It would have taken me years of multiple jobs to develop the array of skills FoodCorps afforded me.”

Corbin Lichtinger

1st Grade Teacher

ME - Lewiston - Corbin Lichtinger teaches types of soil_MaineCorbin entered FoodCorps with a question: how can one achieve small-scale, sustainable agriculture built on relationships rooted deeply within a community? He found his answer through serving with FoodCorps at St. Mary’s Nutrition Center in Lewiston, ME.

When his time with FoodCorps was up, Corbin switched coasts to become Gardening & Cooking Educator with Immigrant & Refugee Community Organization (IRCO) in Portland, OR, which he followed up with a Masters in Education at Lewis & Clark College. Upon exiting graduate school, Corbin took a classroom teacher position at Sunnyside Environmental School in Southeast Portland. There he cut his teeth in understanding what place-based, food and garden education looks like in blended grade level public middle school. He is continuing ahead in this vein as a first grade teacher at a small public school on Sauvie Island, an agricultural island nestled at the confluence of the Willamette and Columbia River.

“My service in Lewiston grounded and complicated narratives I had about public education, local food systems, and community organizing. It helped me contextualize my privilege and better understand how to leverage it for good. Ultimately, it helped me recognize that I wanted to pursue a life of growing and learning alongside my community through the work of being a classroom teacher.”

Michaela Caton

Registered Dietitian Nutritionist

Michaela Caton_hoping for bigger oneMichaela’s experience as a FoodCorps Service member in New Jersey has helped shape her strong passion for reducing the rate of preventable diseases among children and adults. She is now working as a Registered Dietitian Nutritionist, teaching an award­ winning wellness program called KidsFit in three local elementary schools. In this position she creates unique lesson plans for 3rd and 4th graders including cooking, healthy food choices, physical activity with emphasis on instilling lifelong habits. In addition, Michaela is currently providing medical nutrition therapy and nutrition counseling for bariatric patients to assist in each individual’s unique weight loss journey. She also administers prenatal nutrition care to pregnant women where she generates long lasting results for her patients.

“My experience with FoodCorps gave me a competitive edge when applying for the dietetic internship for the second time. It also allowed me to grow as a person, gave me support and encouragement and in the end helped me find my path in life.”

Alexis Sangalang

Nutrition Program Specialist, New Jersey Department of Agriculture

Alexis happily served with FoodCorps New Jersey for two terms in the city of Camden with NJ Partnership for Healthy Kids. She then worked as Youth Nutrition Education Coordinator with The Food Trust, where she taught classroom and after-school nutrition lessons in West Philadelphia. Though she enjoyed her time in education, Alexis sought wanted to explore providing nutrition support on a larger scale. Currently, she works with the New Jersey Department of Agriculture, FoodCorps New Jersey’s state partner. As Nutrition Program Specialist with the Child and Adult Care Food Program in the Division of Food and Nutrition, she provides technical assistance in development and implementation of administrative and instructional policies for child and adult nutrition feeding programs state-wide. 

“My time with FoodCorps was the most valuable professional experience of my life. I gained skills like fostering community partnerships, program management and volunteer coordination, all of which are very marketable to employers. Most importantly, I worked alongside passionate individuals in the fields of public health, agriculture and nutrition which was a truly inspiring thing to be around every day.”

Kala Cuerington

Program Manager, Education Outside

Sparked by a degree in sociology from CUNY Brooklyn College, Kala served in Connecticut at Common Ground High School and New Haven Central Kitchen in 2012. She went on to work as the inaugural FoodCorps Fellow in California where she supported service members from San Diego to Ukiah. Since FoodCorps, she’s managed a restaurant and worked at Alice Waters’ Edible Schoolyard Berkeley. She recently joined Education Outside, a non-profit focused on outdoor elementary education, as a program manager where she works in organizational development and AmeriCorps management.
“FoodCorps has provided me with copious opportunities to learn and grow, both during my service and afterwards. The organization was founded with care, and a diversity of perspectives, which has positioned them as a leaders in the field. Thanks to my time with FoodCorps, I’m now connected to a continuously growing group of thought leaders, entrepreneurs, policy makers, academics, and farmers – for which I am incredibly grateful.”