Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion at FoodCorps
“… what happens at the interpersonal level is a way to understand the whole of society.”
— adrienne maree brown
Together with communities, FoodCorps serves to connect kids to healthy food in schools. We envision a future in which kids of all races, places, and classes know what healthy food is, care where it comes from, and eat it every day. Equity and justice are central to that work.
The American school food system is shaped by structural racism and classism — forces that have impacted virtually every institution in the nation. They affect what kids eat, where they live, how they learn, and how they’ll grow up. To realize our mission, we must be fully invested in dismantling those systems and building a more just world.
Ten years into this work, we’re reflecting on how much intention, compassion, and continuous effort that takes.
The quote opening this report is from adrienne maree brown’s guidebook Emergent Strategy, a text that has inspired and challenged many of us at FoodCorps to rethink the role of relationships in sustaining our organization. Indeed, our learnings around equity, diversity, and inclusion (EDI for short) have grown and changed over time, informed by influences within and outside FoodCorps (and by the work of people of color). We’ve struggled to reconcile our past ways of thinking with the liberatory future we seek. And even as we move toward becoming a more just FoodCorps, we are the first to admit that we haven’t figured out all the answers.
But we are committed as much to the process as to the solution — and now, we’re sharing our process publicly for the first time.
This inaugural Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion Report is the first edition of what will be a yearly publication reviewing FoodCorps’ EDI work. It’s one of many actions we’re taking to foster greater accountability and transparency about our EDI efforts.
This report was developed over the course of almost a year’s worth of planning, researching, seeking feedback from across FoodCorps teams, writing, reviewing, and fine-tuning. Staff provided feedback from the early outlining stages to the final product, and we sought feedback from service members, our Board of Directors EDI Committee, and an external sensitivity reader. Even given that work, we know that a single snapshot like this one cannot entirely reflect the ways that equity does and doesn’t show up at FoodCorps. But we hope it serves as a valuable starting point, and that we’ll be able to build on this foundation in the years to come.
If this report sparks any ideas on furthering equity in your organization, company, or community, we hope you’ll reach out.
What’s Inside This Report
Our inaugural EDI report considers how equity, diversity, and inclusion have shown up at FoodCorps in the ten years since our founding, and how we’ve mapped efforts to be a more just organization in the future. We reflect on our historical shortcomings, our tendency toward white saviorism, and how our actions have harmed our staff, service corps, and communities.
Our equity roadmap outlines the steps we’re taking to build a more just organization. It includes:
- The Just FoodCorps framework, an approach to reevaluating our policies and practices
- Our renewed commitments to equity and inclusion, diversity and social justice, and anti-racism
- SHIFTING, a tool for making decisions with equity in mind
- Our equity goals for the next three years
- Specific steps we have taken and investments we’re making to act on our commitments
We’ve also taken a look at our employee- and service-member-led affinity groups, as well as the demographics of our staff, board, and service corps. We’re doubling down on efforts to bring on more leaders of color across all levels of the organization.
Finally, we’ve shared a list of the organizations and resources that have served as thought partners and educators on our equity journey, and invite readers to chart their own.
A Letter from the Former VP of Equity & Inclusion
by Tiffany McClain
I’m writing this introduction to the inaugural FoodCorps EDI Report on the eve of my departure after eight years, three job titles, four cities, and a global pandemic that is still simmering on low. In one way or another I’ve had a front seat view of this organization’s equity journey since as long as there has been one, and despite the challenges we’ve been through and those we continue to face, I remain hopeful about what could come next for FoodCorps if the organization is brave, intentional, and willing to invest the time, money, and energy it takes to create a more just and inclusive world.
Who and what is giving me hope?
- That our Digital Marketing/Communications Manager took the initiative to create this report as a means of being more transparent with our stakeholders and publicly accountable to our stated commitments to equity, inclusion, social justice, and anti-racism gives me hope.
- Scrolling through a sea of Zoom boxes filled with the faces of BIMPOC (Black, Indigenous, multiracial, and people of color) staff members knowing there was a time when we could be counted on a couple of fingers gives me hope.
- The small and large ways that staff and board members are using SHIFTING, a new resource FoodCorps is using in decision-making, as a tool to integrate equity into how they work and sharing it with community partners and other stakeholders to spark dialogue and change in the states and local communities we serve—and beyond—gives me hope.
- The eagerness of our staff Equity Ambassadors and members of our Board EDI committee to help ensure that all of this momentum continues in the wake of my transition gives me hope.
I want to be clear that this organization still has a lot of work to do to truly become a Just FoodCorps. When it comes to EDI, we are an organization on training wheels and there is still a lot of integration and practice needed before it becomes part of our muscle memory. We are still hesitant to lean into and accept productive conflict—the “good trouble” that social justice leaders like John Lewis knew was necessary to achieve social change. Too often we allow perfectionism, fear of failure, and analysis paralysis to get in the way of trying new ways of being and doing and making any steps toward progress. And perhaps more than anything else, we struggle to fully grant ourselves the time necessary to do work that minimizes harm and advances justice.
All of the above is true AND it is impossible to look back at the FoodCorps I joined in 2013 and claim that no change has happened, that no change is possible. Maybe it’s not happening as directly or quickly as we need and want it to. Maybe it has required hard lessons and major failures that could have been avoided if we had listened more closely to the pain and perspective of those most harmed. But what the last eight years demonstrate is that if we try, if we are intentional, if we invest—change happens, bit by bit, nonetheless. Now just imagine what would be possible if FoodCorps decided to pull out all the stops to achieve equity?
And what’s holding us back?
Happily Passing the Baton to All of You,
VP of Equity & Inclusion
How We Got Here
FoodCorps’ EDI Journey
We can’t move forward without acknowledging the past. A look at FoodCorps’ legacies of equity and inequity since our inception.
We show up to this work knowing that FoodCorps has not gotten EDI right every time. We believe it’s impossible to move forward without naming our missteps, owning them, and showing how we’ll do better.
FoodCorps was founded by six white people. Over a thousand stakeholders were consulted in the creation of the organization, but without any people of color among the co-founders, critical voices and perspectives were left out. FoodCorps’ original intent was to improve children’s health through food education and healthy school meals, though we also engaged with and spoke out against the so-called “childhood obesity epidemic.” Focused on the public momentum around this issue, we failed to recognize that concerns around obesity have historical roots in the shaming of Black bodies. They also play into contemporary themes of individual responsibility rather than recognizing systemic failings in lack of access to health. Though our approach to the work has shifted in the more than ten years since our founding, the painful truth remains that in its earliest forms, FoodCorps’ ethic did not value all bodies equally.
We have long sought to be an equity-centered organization, though we have often misstepped. We’re intentional about where we serve; we work with schools where approximately 80% of the student population is eligible for free or reduced-price lunch, and we engage in dialogue with our community partners about their commitment to equity, diversity, and inclusion. When selecting service members, we ask about their relationship to the communities where they seek to serve, prioritizing candidates who will serve in their home communities. Our staff and service member trainings focus heavily on centering local contexts, cultures, and community priorities. Cultural relevance plays a big role in the lessons our service members facilitate; they encourage their students to embrace their identities, celebrate diversity, and learn about foods that honor their heritage and communities.
But as FoodCorps grew, patterns of white dominant culture were normalized and rewarded. Perfectionism and paternalism, predominantly white leadership, and an emphasis on always doing more, bigger, faster, created a culture that felt unsafe and unsustainable for many staff, particularly staff of color. While FoodCorps aimed to partner authentically with communities most impacted by diet-related disease — namely low-income communities and communities of color — the result was a display of white saviorism.
FoodCorps actively seeks BIMPOC candidates for service member positions, because we know the transformative power of kids learning in classrooms with teachers who look like them. Unfortunately, we also know that the service member stipend has fallen short of a living wage for many of our members. This is a structural challenge we’ve been working to address, recognizing the tension that paying higher stipends means offering fewer positions, through our work with Voices for National Service and through our philanthropic fundraising efforts. And while we have increased the service member stipend over the years, the stipend amount has still excluded some candidates from the opportunity to serve.
These patterns came to a head in 2019, when an all-staff retreat led by the Mosaic Collaborative focused on our anti-racism work gave voice to an array of harms yet to be repaired—or even acknowledged. Throughout the year leading up to the retreat, we invested in our ability to have hard conversations about race, sending all staff to Undoing Racism trainings and conducting equity coaching with our executive team. This year of prep work created the conditions for staff to initiate the hard conversations FoodCorps needed to have. The retreat exposed the extent to which, in an organization committed to equity, we were failing to achieve it. Policies and practices played out with greater benefits to some staff over others, and many colleagues shared the ways they experienced racism, classism, ableism, and other oppressions within our organizational culture. One of many recommendations borne of that retreat was an annual audit of our equity work, to be made publicly available for transparency and accountability. The idea sparked enthusiasm among our staff, and for several months after we brainstormed different ways this information could take shape. That process extended into the summer of 2020, when our nation’s reckoning with racial justice called us to ask ourselves what more we could do.
The timing of this report is not lost on us. This first edition comes well into the COVID-19 pandemic, which hit communities of color hardest, and in the midst of heightened calls for justice in the face of continuing racist violence. During a moment when equity efforts are in the spotlight like never before, we hope first and foremost to hold ourselves accountable, to share our progress with you every year, to change and grow, and ultimately, to serve kids and communities as best we can.
Across FoodCorps, we’ve been reckoning with our legacy of inequity and what it means for the work we hope to do today. This report also comes in conjunction with a three-year strategic plan, one that reimagines how we center the visions of local communities, build authentic partnerships, and support our service members and alumni to create a more equitable future where all kids can thrive.
In response to the 2019 staff retreat and the problems it surfaced, we made a number of immediate changes to how we operated, including:
- Creating a new VP of Equity and Inclusion position and a Senior Manager position for this department, both of which were filled from within the organization
- Completing a pay equity audit and providing immediate pay raises for state programs staff and BIMPOC staff who were paid inequitably
- Creating a new employee resource group (ERG) for white staff seeking to engage in anti-racism work, and continuing support of the ERG for BIMPOC staff
- Creating a program of cross-departmental Equity Ambassadors to hold teams accountable to their equity goals
- Investing in deeper relationships between our Executive Team and BIMPOC staff through an in-person trip to the Legacy Museum and National Memorial for Peace and Justice in Montgomery, Alabama, and ongoing monthly meetings
- Expanding our roster of equity trainings for staff and service members, including interrupting oppressive moments, transgender and nonbinary inclusion, and body positivity
- Conducting a staff-wide assessment of our equity journey, leading to the development of a new “Just FoodCorps” framework for tracking it
- Continuing already-begun work to increase service member stipends
One of our guiding beliefs — it’s currently displayed in our New York and Portland offices — is that it takes a more just organization to create a more just world. As we carry the truths of our past, we also know that a bold, bright future is possible.
The Just FoodCorps framework, which is shared below in more detail, outlines visions for how we can shape a more just and equitable future across every corner of the organization. We’ve introduced tools for making decisions more equitably and updated our equity commitments. While we know we’re still shaping what this path looks like, our hope is that through intentional, thoughtful, and ongoing shifts in how we work, we can build a future for our organization that serves us all.
In the coming years, we hope to create a culture of accountability and open communication, to make our Just FoodCorps goals into realities, and to move forward as an anti-racist organization.
In response to the 2019 staff retreat and the problems it surfaced, we made a number of immediate changes to how we operated, including:
Moving Toward a Just FoodCorps
Our Equity Roadmap
The Just FoodCorps Framework
After our 2019 staff retreat, we embarked on a robust examination of our practices and what a more just FoodCorps would look like.
Out of this process emerged the Just FoodCorps framework, created by our former VP of Equity and Inclusion, Tiffany McClain, with extensive staff input.
The Just FoodCorps framework is:
- A roadmap to guide us toward becoming a more just organization, knowing that the destination we’re aiming for will change and become more clear as we move toward it and learn more
- An annual assessment tool to evaluate how far we’ve moved toward or away from becoming a more just organization
- A jumping off point for deep, ongoing, informative conversations about our organizational identity and what we are willing to do more or less of in order to become more just
The Just FoodCorps Framework is not:
- A history of FoodCorps’ journey. It is possible for us to move forward or backward on this spectrum.
- Set in stone. Our vision of a just FoodCorps will likely evolve as we get closer to it.
- A how-to manual. It sets the vision and goal posts, but we have to determine together what activities will get us there.
When the Just FoodCorps framework was introduced, we surveyed staff to learn where people perceived FoodCorps was on its equity journey. About 70% of staff responded. In reviewing the feedback, we compared the opinions of our BIMPOC staff to the opinions of staff overall.
We’re using the Just FoodCorps framework to examine our progress on everything from fundraising to storytelling to conflict resolution. Here are a few examples.
Mission, Vision, Values
No one knows or can remember our vision, values, and goals off-hand or can meaningfully invoke them in a meeting.
Our mission, programs, and communications reflect the contributions and interests of a diverse group of stakeholders. We have a clear, liberatory vision of “the ends” we are trying to achieve in the world and within our organization and all of our strategic decisions are based on whether or not they help us to achieve those ends. We can see and articulate the way each of our individual roles, programs, or bodies of work contribute to the ultimate change we are working towards. We have collective clarity and alignment for action. Our vision, values, and goals are simple, memorable, and repeatable.
We share an understanding that racism and classism are at the root of the problem we’re trying to solve and acknowledge our own complicity in perpetuating inequity. We’re not afraid to use those terms publicly. We are able to clearly articulate the way our work fits into a more systemic context and the other levers of influence that need to be moved in order to achieve transformational change–whether or not we are the ones moving those levers. We can describe and observe the ways that our work advances a more equitable school food system, and the ways in which a more equitable school food system advances a more equitable society. We have a shared organizational analysis of what institutionalized oppression is and what equity and justice are. We educate ourselves about the communities we operate in via site visits, presentations, etc. We know what we stand for and that doesn’t change based on who is in the room.
Our mission, vision, policies, procedures, and Board agreements are redrafted to include an acknowledgement of systemic racism and classism as a consistent theme that informs the problem we’re trying to solve and that must be addressed in order to achieve our mission. We actively work with other organizations and institutions to address systemic inequalities (based on their mission and the nature of our partnership). We identify as a social justice organization and invite external partners to hold us accountable to our commitment. We require anti-oppression training programs for staff and board. We have found a way to engage funding and industry partners about our commitment to undoing racism and classism and why it is important to achieving our shared goals.
51% of all respondents believed we were “FoodCorps Asleep,” including 52% of BIMPOC respondents
73% of all respondents believed we could be “Woke FoodCorps” by 2023, including 79% of BIMPOC respondents
Leadership, Decision-Making, and Power
FoodCorps is a top-down, “paternalistic” culture where the Board & Executive Team make all decisions. We are organized around a single charismatic leader working mostly in isolation from other organizations. Leadership is individualistic in attitude and approach to decision-making. We are comfortable with predominantly white leadership and cite urgency or lack of available, qualified people of color as a justification for why leadership is predominantly white. White people in decision-making roles are paid very well, but most people of color are in admin or service member positions that pay lower wages and have very little power. We feel most accountable to funders and a few white board and staff members. Everyone else’s opinions about our work has little influence on our actions. Team/Department meetings spaces are primarily run and directed by those in power leaving no room for staff to facilitate or lead. The “D” in the RAPID is always a white person and decisions are made in private.*
*RAPID is a decision-making framework. Learn more: https://bit.ly/3wrwh77
There are one or two people of color in leadership positions at FoodCorps, but they have very little authority and there is a high level of turnover. We talk about inclusion a lot and our language assumes a level playing field, but most decisions are still pretty top-down. We have no analysis of power as it operates within our organization or in the larger world. White people in decision-making positions are paid relatively well, people of color and other underrepresented individuals are mostly in admin positions that pay less well and have very little power. We feel most accountable to board members, staff, and funders with some token attempts to engage and report to those targeted by the mission. Funders sometimes over-influence our programmatic decisions. The “D” in the RAPID is always a white person and it is often unclear who is responsible for making decisions and/or who made a decision and/or the process by which decisions are made.
Our decisions are mostly made by a diverse group of board and staff. Leadership models what justice looks like, apologizes, and takes immediate, corrective action when they make a mistake. There are some initial attempts to engage those most impacted in decision-making. We actively identify opportunities for state staff, staff members of color, and staff from other underrepresented groups to be key decision makers on a number of projects. We acknowledge power and we have an understanding of how it operates within our organization. We are actively trying to make the shift from “hero” to “host/facilitator” in how we approach leadership. We are working on creating new lines of accountability to communities we operate in. We are experimenting with more inclusive and participatory decision-making practices and looking to other cultural models to evolve our idea of what leadership and power-sharing look like.
FoodCorps shares power. Everyone in the organization is able to conceive of a good idea and move it to fruition. Everyone in the organization understands how power is distributed and how decisions get made.
We have created pathways for accountability so that we are structurally accountable to the communities that we serve and we take our marching orders from them. We involve people who are affected by decisions in decision-making. The demographics of the Board and Executive Team (if still in existence) are reflective of the rest of the staff and partner communities. People of color are in significant leadership positions and are paid a comparable salary to white people in similar roles. Admin and service member positions are seen as stepping stones to positions of power (if desired) and those admin/service positions include some decision-making power and authority. There is representation from impacted communities on all auxiliary decision-making bodies (Board of Directors, Anchor Partners, etc.).
81% of all respondents believed we were “FoodCorps Awake,” including 83% of BIMPOC respondents
68% of all respondents believed we could be “Woke FoodCorps” by 2023, including 64% of BIMPOC respondents
Service Member, Staff, Alumni & Community Leadership Development
FoodCorps pays very little attention to leadership and staff development. Official titles outweigh experience. People are treated as if they only know how to do what is in their job description and their ideas are valued according to their rank. When offering to do more or different, people are told to “stay in their lane.”
We offer professional development funds and some internal training to develop individual skills. We regularly track retention and promotion rates by race across the organization and by staff level.
FoodCorps staff and service members participate in training to help us better work in solidarity with communities and we offer this opportunity to site partners as well. We dedicate resources to developing shared goals, teamwork, sharing skills, training and coaching. We have a holistic and explicit definition of what we mean by “experience” when it comes to hiring and promotion and we proactively provide current staff with opportunities to gain experience on the job to prepare them for more and leadership opportunities. We encourage a diversity of work styles with active reflection about balancing what gets done and how it gets accomplished. We create space for and value work that requires musical, visual, spatial, interpersonal, and intrapersonal intelligences. We prioritize an individualized, authentic, and empowering management style. As staff learn their jobs, they are given the freedom to make mistakes and learn from them. Supportive feedback is given in real time or soon thereafter. Mistakes are valued as opportunities for learning.
FoodCorps actively recruits and mentors people of color in order to build and maintain an organization that closely reflects the communities we serve. We are committed to ongoing leadership development at every level. In particular, we regularly develop and train staff, service members, alumni, and site supervisors to act as liberated gatekeepers, operationalize equity, and create more inclusive spaces for disabled, queer/gender non-binary folks, and people of color as part of our mission, programs, culture, norms, practices, and policies. We train service members and/or other staff to build capacity within their service communities, exchanging valuable knowledge and skills with leaders and potential leaders. We provide and/or support trainings and site-specific capacity building to occur on the state and local level for site supervisors and community stakeholders (with the goal of strong representation from those most impacted by health disparities).
73% of all respondents believed we were “FoodCorps Awake” in 2020, including 74% of BIMPOC respondents
67% of all respondents believed we could be “Woke FoodCorps” by 2023, including 74% of BIMPOC respondents
The following commitments to EDI, social justice, and anti-racism guide all aspects of our work. We revised our existing equity commitments in light of the 2019 staff retreat, after feeling the urgent call to revisit our values and guiding principles.
DIVERSITY & INCLUSION
FoodCorps will strive to create an environment that reflects the diversity of our partner communities and in which everyone can show up and feel brave, supported, and valued for the contributions they make to this organization regardless of ability, gender identity, nationality, race, religion, and sexuality. Our program and vision of health will be one that celebrates all bodies and cultures. And we will work to recreate our leadership and decision-making structures to center the voices and act on the direction of people most impacted by our work in the world and systemic oppression writ large.
EQUITY & SOCIAL JUSTICE
FoodCorps will work to shift power, access, and resources within our sphere of influence to help create more justice in the world for those most impacted by systemic oppression. We will do this by committing our resources to national, state, and local efforts to create a more equitable school food system — prioritizing communities of color and students who receive free or reduced-cost meals — and by centering the needs and perspectives of those most impacted by food injustice when making decisions about how to move forward. We will revise our organizational policies related to compensation, budgeting, recruitment, promotions, and leadership development in order to reduce internal inequities in access to power, resources, and opportunity and we will cultivate a sense of shared collective and individual accountability for upholding our policies and priorities.
At FoodCorps, we recognize that systemic racism is one of the root causes of the problem we are trying to solve and that without actively dismantling it, we will never succeed at creating more equitable access to healthy food in schools. It is impossible for us to be neutral on this front. If we are not actively working to be anti-racist, then we are complicit in perpetuating racism. We know that dismantling racism takes time, that we have and will continue to make mistakes, and that it is work that will never be finished. But this cannot be used as an excuse not to do our part.
We will start by working to rid FoodCorps of its saviorism impulses and of the expectation that our staff of color can or should take disproportionate responsibility for fixing the organization. We will provide our entire staff and service corps with the education and tools to recognize and interrupt internalized, interpersonal, and systemic racism and set an expectation that they will put the tools to use as a measure of success. We will name and frame racism when we see it, change ways of working that are embedded in white supremacy culture, and challenge public policies and internal structures of power that reinforce racial inequality.
We will regularly review and hold ourselves accountable to the commitments above through a series of measures, including an assessment of our Just FoodCorps progress, conversations with our Board of Directors EDI Committee, and looking at our EDI goals on a department basis.
Shifting Our Thinking
Building on these commitments and the Just FoodCorps Framework, Tiffany partnered with colleagues across FoodCorps to create SHIFTING, a tool for approaching work with an equity mindset. SHIFTING leads us toward tangible ways to more equitably distribute power and resources, invite more people to the table, and dismantle oppressive systems and forces when planning projects and making decisions.
The SHIFTING framework includes eight approaches to equity whose first letters spell out the word SHIFTING:
S = Shift power, resources, and/or access to those most impacted by systemic oppression and closest to the work that needs to be done
H = Honor and trust the wisdom and expertise of grassroots leadership in the communities where we work
I = Interrupt internalized, interpersonal, and/or systemic oppression
F = Foster an environment that reflects the diversity of our partner communities and in which everyone can show up and feel brave, supported and valued for their contributions
T = Try to create the world we want to see even when we know we might fail
I = Inve$t in equity when it comes to budgeting, contracts and vendors, compensation, leadership development, recruitment, and promotions
N = Name and frame racism, transphobia, ableism, and other forms of oppression and marginalization when we see it
G = Grant ourselves the time necessary to make decisions and do work that advances justice and minimizes harm.
We introduced SHIFTING in early 2021 and are still working through how to incorporate it across all levels of work-planning and goal-setting. Staff are encouraged to apply the SHIFTING framework as they make decisions and plan projects by asking how various components of a project live up to each letter. We’re in the early stages of introducing SHIFTING to service members.
Based on the Just FoodCorps process, FoodCorps — as well as each department — has set equity-centered working goals for the next three years, many of them incorporated into our new impact strategy. Each year, we’ll evaluate how we’ve made progress toward these goals.
Using SHIFTING as a guide, we’ve set the following equity goals for the organization for the next three years:
We will shift power, resources, and/or access to those most impacted by systemic oppression and closest to the work that needs to be done by…
- Investing in recruitment, development, support, and networking of local leaders with a heavy emphasis on BIMPOC leadership
- Expanding general leadership development and equity leadership training opportunities and making them available to alums, community stakeholders, and service members
We will honor and trust the wisdom and expertise of grassroots leadership in the communities where we work by…
- Re-orienting ourselves as an organization that flexibly supports local visions for change in the school food and education systems and leverages our resources to support their definitions of success
- Amplifying the voices and stories from our site partners and other community changemakers to support state and federal policy efforts that expand access to food education and nourishing school meals
We will interrupt internalized, interpersonal, and/or systemic oppression by…
- Striving to help achieve access to hands-on food education and healthy school meals for all by elevating and investing in multi-level policy change efforts that can help break down barriers to access
- Continuing to train service members for success during service and beyond, with an emphasis on culturally responsive, equity-centered, and place-based service
We will foster an environment that reflects the diversity of our partner communities and in which everyone can show up and feel brave, supported and valued for their contributions by…
- Building a more racially diverse pipeline for career fields that have been overwhelmingly white and lacking in cultural responsiveness
We will try to create the world we want to see, even when we know we might fail, by…
- Setting an ambitious 10-year goal of achieving access to hands-on food education and healthy school meals for all in partnership with policy allies, funders, and other local and national changemakers who share our goal
We will inve$t in equity when it comes to budgeting, contracts and vendors, compensation, leadership development, recruitment, and promotions by…
- Redirecting funds and resources to provide and maintain a living wage for all service members
- Continuing to build out benefits and resources for service members that improves our ability to recruit and retain local and BIMPOC leaders
We will name and frame racism by…
- Acknowledging that institutionalized racism and economic inequality are the primary barriers to providing all children with access to nourishing food
We will grant ourselves the time necessary to make decisions and do work that advances justice and minimizes harm by…
- Making a commitment to multi-year community partnerships — an implicit recognition that sustainable change takes time
- Creating spacious project timelines that allow us to do the foundational discovery work, build authentic relationships, and create projects and programs that are truly responsive to the expressed needs and visions of our ecosystem of stakeholders
In 2020, we received a grant from the Walmart Foundation to support our equity and strategic planning work. Given flexibility over how to use these funds, our EDI team decided to try a participatory budgeting process — something new to FoodCorps — in which staff decided as a group how to spend the funds, rather than leaving the decision to a handful of senior leaders. Staff proposed a series of projects to increase inclusivity and equity, and through a voting process, selected four initiatives to receive portions of the funding. Ultimately, the grant funded work to support a network of school nutrition professionals of color, mental health first aid training, a council of service member representatives, and a transgender and nonbinary inclusion training. Staff who do not normally lead projects were able to move into leadership roles, share project ideas, and play a greater role in deciding how FoodCorps spends money.
From Storytelling to Story-Sharing
Two FoodCorps teams — Marketing & Communications and Growth & Development — set a goal to more equitably and fairly share stories about our work with our networks, supporters, and funders. In the past, we’ve received feedback that the stories we share can feel extractive, borrowing images and words from our corps members or the people we serve, and repurposing them to raise attention and resources for FoodCorps. We have also fallen into the trap of “deficit-based” storytelling that emphasizes what kids and communities lack, instead of all they bring to the table; or that suggests individuals need to change, when unjust systems are to blame. We’ve made some intentional shifts in how we tell stories — including thinking of this process as “sharing” others’ stories, not telling them — in order to portray stories of service in a way that’s genuine, compassionate, and not unduly taxing on the communities we work with. For the Marketing & Communications team, this has looked like decentering FoodCorps in the stories we pitch to the press and share on our communications channels, and focusing instead on our site partners, communities, and changemakers like school nutrition professionals. And in Growth & Development, we’re incorporating these content commitments into our partnership agreements, inviting our funders to shift alongside us and offering our learnings about how to do this work thoughtfully.
The Power of People
Trainings, Connections, and Demographics
Staff and Service Member Trainings
We’re invested in training our staff and service members on issues of equity, justice, and anti-racism. Over the course of the past program year, FoodCorps organized a series of trainings for staff and service members about advancing anti-racism in our work. Additionally, a group of staff members organized and led a training on fostering equity and inclusion for transgender and nonbinary people. Going forward, all new staff are required to attend Undoing Racism, a multiple-day external training led by the People’s Institute for Survival and Beyond (PISAB).
Anti-Racism Training with Elevating Equity
FoodCorps Board Member Rachel Willis is the CEO and Founder of Elevating Equity, an organization that supports education-based leaders in creating anti-racist, culturally responsive environments. A frequent leader of professional development workshops, Rachel led FoodCorps staff and service members in a series of anti-racism trainings over the past year.
Service member trainings included:
- Institutional Racism in Education and Reflecting on My Experience
- This is Us: How Our Identities Shape the Way We Serve & Teach
- Building an Anti-Racist & Culturally Responsive Environment
- Identifying & Mitigating Implicit Bias in My Service Year
- A Thousand Papercuts – Recognizing and Responding to Oppressive Moments
Staff trainings included:
- An Unequal Race: Understanding Systemic Racism
- Preparing for Race Talks with Service Members
- Recognizing the Characteristics of White Supremacy Culture
- S.P.E.A.K.: Responding to Racial Incidents
Employee Resource Groups and Service Member Affinity Groups
FoodCorps staffers and service members convene, collaborate, and co-create in a variety of settings. Within the last two years, staff and service members have created a number of affinity groups to provide equity-centered community spaces. Our BIMPOC, White Folx Working Toward Anti-Racism (WFWTAR), and LGBTQ+ groups each have two iterations — one for staff and one service members — that occasionally collaborate on ideas and projects. Groups meet monthly or quarterly.
The mission of the BIMPOC ERG (Black Indigenous Multiracial People of Color Employee Resource Group) at FoodCorps is to support one another, celebrate diversity, build community, and discuss how BIMPOC culture and experiences can and should show up to inform and influence the work and culture at FoodCorps. The ERG was born in 2019 after a group of BIMPOC staff felt that there weren’t spaces for BIMPOC folks to share their experiences with one another in a predominantly white organization. As FoodCorps conversations about equity and white-dominant workspaces evolve, this ERG creates an accessible forum for BIMPOC staff to surface ideas, learn from one another, advocate, organize, lead, and hold the organization accountable to continue lifting equity and antiracist discussions at FoodCorps. By creating a space that uplifts BIMPOC joy and culture, this ERG supports the mental health and well-being of diverse employees of color, so they can thrive individually, show up authentically, and bring diverse experiences and valuable perspectives to their work.
For FoodCorps to become a just and equitable organization, racial justice work must not fall solely on the shoulders of colleagues of color. The mission of White Folx Working Toward Anti-Racism is for white staff at FoodCorps to hold themselves and each other accountable in showing up individually and collectively in FoodCorps’ org-wide journey toward anti-racism. The ERG was borne from the November 2019 staff retreat in which it became clear that white folx at the organization have not been showing up or playing a part in dismantling white supremacist norms and organizational culture. White folx created this group to understand how their behaviors cause harm and to identify ways they might be better, and to challenge each other to step into discomfort and build skills to show up more actively as anti-racists. By exploring whiteness and privilege, the patterns of “polite” white supremacy, and internalized racial superiority, white staff are working to grow a community built on trust within and beyond FoodCorps. The organizers of the BIMPOC and WFWTAR groups meet monthly to hold WFWTAR accountable to its goals of furthering anti-racism work and dismantling white supremacy culture at FoodCorps.
The mission of the LGBTQ+ ERG is to create a space for LGBTQ+ staff and service members to connect, share ideas, advocate for change within the organization, and support one another. Building community among folx who identify at LGBTQ+ is an important part of helping this group of staff feel welcome at FoodCorps. Uplifting the voices of LGBTQ+ people helps the entire organization work toward its goal of being inclusive. FoodCorps says that it works to build inclusive spaces for all people, yet many LGBTQ+ staffers didn’t find this to be true on an organization-wide level. Pre-gathering groups at National Orientation and Mid-Year Gathering, our two major yearly trainings for service members, offered a model for how to create intentional community spaces for LGBTQ+ people. Building off the energy created in those groups, this employee group will create a space for LGBTQ+ staff to share difficulties, questions, experiences, and the queer media that gives us life, as well as help to find solutions to issues within FoodCorps where LGBTQ+ voices may not otherwise be heard or heeded.
In 2020, the Equity, Diversity and Inclusion team developed an initiative to increase collaboration and communication across departments on EDI work. Known as the Equity Ambassadors, this cross-departmental network of seven staff members — one per department, committed to a two-year term — helps to advance equity within their department’s sphere of influence, promote communication and consistency throughout the organization, and create systems of accountability at the individual and departmental levels. The group meets monthly.
The philosophy behind the Equity Ambassadors program is that one person in a single department cannot have complete insight into the workings of each department, nor are they positioned to hold individuals, teams, or other VPs accountable for their equity goals. This leads to a lot of missed opportunities to integrate equity choice points into work processes and decision-making; infrequent, isolated conversations about equity; and a lack of clarity about what departments are doing to promote equity and inclusion. Equity Ambassadors serve as the cheerleaders for equity within their departments, work with team members and VPs to draft goals and make decisions with equity at the center, and serve as messengers for their team’s work to the VP of Equity, other ambassadors, and the entire organization.
Service Member Action Committee
Piloted in the 2020-2021 school year, the Service Member Action Committee (SMAC) is a service member-led committee representative of each region and consisting of BIMPOC and LGBTQ+ members serving in different community settings. This committee invites service members into crucial conversations and gives more opportunities for their voices to be a part of co-creating the service program they lead in their communities each day.
While FoodCorps has historically engaged service members in a number of ways— annual surveys, workshops soliciting service member feedback, and others — service members saw a need to provide more direct feedback on the service program. The SMAC came to fruition after a meeting with a group of BIMPOC service members, in which they expressed both their ideas for service as well as the frustrations they felt with their lack of involvement in FoodCorps’ decision-making process. This was not just an issue BIMPOC service members were experiencing, but reflected a larger issue within FoodCorps.
Initially, SMAC consisted of two service members from each region serving in different service communities (urban, rural, nonprofit, school and school districts) and bringing their own intersectional identities, with an emphasis on uplifting BIMPOC and LGBTQ+ voices. We recognize that this does not include a service member from every state, and we support SMAC members in connecting with their cohorts for service member feedback. Through their continued partnership, SMAC and FoodCorps’ Training and Alumni team strive to elevate and honor the service member experience through affinity groups, learning communities, and ample opportunities and methods for engaging all service members in conversations and work around creating a better FoodCorps.
The following demographics reflect the makeup of our staff, board of directors, and service corps.
Staff (87 Members)
Board (13 Members)
Executive Team (10 members)
This year, we made the decision to expand our executive team to include staff beyond our Vice Presidents — an intentional move to shift power and decision-making across more channels of the organization.
Service Corps (213 Members)
*Racial identity data includes service members selecting multiple categories. LGBTQ status was not available for our board or service corps, but we are investigating ways to collect this information in the future. Staff, board and service corps information was collected May 13, 2021.
FoodCorps served in 281 schools during the 2020-2021 school year. 80% of students in those schools are students of color.
In the 2018-2019 school year — the most recent available data as of 2021 — 60% of FoodCorps partner schools were located in urban areas, 14% are in rural areas, and 8% are in either a suburb or town.*
*Descriptions of different areas are named by the National Center for Education Statistics and can be found here.
Our Continued Learning
What Comes Next
This report is the first of many opportunities to share with you, our network of partners and supporters, the role of EDI in our work. In future years, this report will serve as a space for us to share updates on the equity goals we’ve laid out here and to introduce new and changing EDI initiatives over time. For now, we share some of the resources and organizations who have shaped our learning on this work.
The following resources have provided invaluable information and context in the creation of the Just FoodCorps Framework, SHIFTING, and in guiding our organizational anti-racism journey.
- Continuum of Becoming an Anti-Racist Multicultural Organization (© Crossroads Ministry, Chicago, IL: Adapted from original concept by Bailey Jackson and Rita Hardiman, and further developed by Andrea Avazian and Ronice Branding; further adapted by Melia LaCour, PSESD.)
- White Dominant Culture & Something Different (Adapted for ACCE from adaptation by Partners for Collaborative Change based on “White Supremacy Culture” by Tema Okun and Kenneth Jones, for large, majority white environmental organizations, using interviews with staff and partners of these organizations.)
- Four Stages of Organizational Development, pp.152-160 in Standing Together: Coming Out for Racial Justice (Basic Rights Education Fund)
- Awake to Woke to Work: Building a Race Equity Culture (Equity in the Center)
- “Can We Agree on This Simple Definition of Equity?” (Nonprofit AF)
- Anti-Racism Defined (ACLRC)
- How Donor-Centrism Perpetuates Inequity, and Why We Must Move Toward Community-Centric Fundraising (Nonprofit AF)
Organizations to Support
The following organizations and people have been instrumental in supporting us along our racial equity journey.
- Nita Baum and Kelli Doss of b*free have served as EDI consultants to our executive team, providing coaching and support as we chart our equity work.
- The People’s Institute for Survival and Beyond (PISAB) led the Undoing Racism trainings that provided foundational knowledge and skills for many of our staff.
- The Mosaic Collaborative facilitated our 2019 staff retreat, provided thoughtful feedback and recommendations after the retreat, and served as thought partners throughout our journey.
- Beth Zemsky provided early training around intercultural organizational development.
- The Management Center provided management training focused on uplifting people of color in management and on anti-racist leadership for white managers.
- The Transgender Training Institute trained several of our staff in leading transgender and nonbinary inclusion workshops for staff and service members.
- Elevating Equity, founded by Board Member Rachel Willis, provides foundational equity trainings for staff and service members.
Connect With Us
Finally, we are not the first organization to dedicate time and space to EDI accountability, and we will not be the last. We encourage our fellow organizations, especially those with historically white leadership, to do some similar reflection, and we’re open to conversations about how we can support you. Send us an email at [email protected] if you’d like to get in touch.