FoodCorps Launches New School Nutrition Pilot Program For Its Service Members
NEW YORK CITY (October 25, 2021) — Today FoodCorps, a national nonprofit that connects kids to healthy food in schools, announced the launch of a new pilot program that places FoodCorps AmeriCorps service members to serve a year with school food and nutrition services (FNS) at the district level for the first time.
Each school year, FoodCorps service members provide direct support to the schools they serve by leading hands-on food education in classrooms and school gardens, encouraging students to try new healthy options in the cafeteria, and helping school nutrition staff with meal distribution. The School Nutrition Service Member Pilot will take a broader approach to this programming, allowing service members to support district-level initiatives that drive nourishing meals and nutrition education to every school and child in their district, while receiving technical assistance and professional development from FoodCorps.
The initiatives, developed in collaboration with district partners, include:
- Coordinate and facilitate a student-led advisory in school meals to ensure their voice and choice are reflected in school menus.
- Support local procurement and menu development for programs such as Harvest of the Month or Fresh Fruit and Vegetable Program (FFVP), prioritizing local farmers when possible.
- Coordinate professional development for teachers on the connection between food justice and social justice.
- Improve communications between Food and Nutrition Services departments and the larger school community.
“FoodCorps service members make an impact every day in the schools they serve by teaching kids where their food comes from and how to enjoy it through cooking and gardening skills and playing an invaluable role between school nutrition staff and students,” said Morgan McGhee, MPH, RD, director of school nutrition leadership. “This pilot program will enable us to scale reach and impact in key areas, while bringing more support to district leaders.”
In its first year, the pilot will place 20 service members across 14 districts and district partners in California, Georgia, Massachusetts, Michigan, and New Jersey. The goal will be to allow FoodCorps to better understand how its service members are uniquely positioned to support FNS staff and collaborate with food education programming, with the overall goal of connecting the cafeteria to the classroom and beyond.
According to a recent report from FoodCorps, based on interviews with 44 district leaders (including superintendents and School Nutrition Directors), the pandemic proved to be a turning point for school food that saw more collaboration and innovation between districts and school nutrition staff, with the collective purpose of keeping every child nourished while schools were closed during the 2020-21 school year. The report also illustrated challenges these individuals experienced with increased student need, limited budgets and a looming labor shortage of school nutrition professionals.
“Schools and school nutrition staff are the heroes of the on-going pandemic,” said Curt Ellis, CEO and co-founder of FoodCorps. “We are excited that this pilot is launching during a moment where service members can help district staff directly and when Congress is considering additional important investments to school food and nutrition education. Additionally, at a time when many school nutrition programs are facing staffing shortages, we are glad to have a new way for FoodCorps to help grow the pipeline of future leaders in this arena.”