Our Story & Founders
The FoodCorps team first came together in California on Earth Day 2009, the day President Obama signed the Kennedy Serve America Act into law. This legislation signaled a new opportunity to engage AmeriCorps in building a more sustainable, healthful, equitable food system.
Rather than being designed from the top down, FoodCorps sprang from the grassroots up: a national initiative that thousands of local voices shaped according to their needs. From the beginning, FoodCorps drew strong support from the communities we are now serving. Monthly open conference calls each attracted 45-190 participants. An initial 40-person Planning Summit grew into 300 volunteers actively participating in developing our current model.
Beginning in 2009, six young leaders came together to help FoodCorps take shape, each bringing their unique passion, expertise and organizational backing to the project:
Crissie McMullan pioneered a model for our work when she founded Montana FoodCorps in 2006. An initiative of the Grow Montana Coalition and the National Center for Appropriate Technology, the program is now part of FoodCorps. Crissie now serves on the FoodCorps board.
Cecily Upton worked to give young people a voice in the food and agriculture conversation as Director of Youth Programs at Slow Food USA. She facilitated school garden projects and initiated the program before joining the staff of FoodCorps as the VP of Programs.
Debra Eschmeyer brought her background in farming and passion for school food to the National Farm to School Network and the Food and Community Fellowship program. A go-to expert among policymakers and the press, Debra now continues her work at FoodCorps as the VP of External Affairs.
Ian Cheney helped start the Yale Sustainable Food Project and co-created the Peabody-winning documentary King Corn and the mobile garden project Truck Farm. Additional film projects include The Greening of Southie, The City Dark and The Search for General Tso. He contributed his unique skills to the FoodCorps team through his media company, Wicked Delicate. He served on the FoodCorps board from 2010 - 2013.
Jerusha Klemperer created high-impact communication and action campaigns in her post as Associate Director of National Programs at Slow Food USA. Her strategy and social media work fueled their initiatives Time for Lunch, Dig In and Farmarazzi. She is now on FoodCorps staff as the Communications Director.
Curt Ellis co-created the documentaries King Corn and Big River and served as a Food and Community Fellow with the Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy. In April 2009, he convened the group’s first meeting to discuss a national AmeriCorps initiative related to “Good Food.” He now serves as FoodCorps' CEO.
Our Founding Partners:
A federation of organizations stepped up to support the emerging FoodCorps effort:
- Occidental College and the National Farm to School Network: an umbrella organization working on behalf of 2,000 Farm to School initiatives nationwide
- Slow Food USA: a 200-chapter volunteer network working for integrity in food and farming
- The National Center for Appropriate Technology: operators of a model program in Montana
- Wicked Delicate: the documentary and advocacy firm founded by the co-creators of King Corn
With Occidental College serving as incubator, and The Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy Food and Community Fellows Program providing important additional support, FoodCorps was awarded planning grants from AmeriCorps and the Kellogg Foundation, and in early 2010 formal work began.
Watch this video to hear Curt Ellis (co-founder and Executive Director) give a TEDxManhattan talk about the vision behind FoodCorps.