FoodCorps Members Keep Students Learning About Food

FoodCorps service member works with students in the garden

By Jason Flatt for Food Tank 

When COVID-19 forced schools to close across the United States, FoodCorps reimagined hands-on food and nutrition education. The national service program educates students in more than 375 schools across the United States. But now FoodCorps service members are teaching classes remotely while also serving on the frontlines of emergency feeding programs.

“We know that healthy food is essential for kids,” Zeke Smith, Vice President of Programs at FoodCorps, tells Food Tank. “But millions of kids in the U.S. — especially children of color and children from low-income communities — face ongoing barriers to getting the nourishment they need.”

FoodCorps prioritizes hands-on learning opportunities and service members typically use classrooms, cafeterias, and school gardens to improve students’ relationships with healthy food. But when students could no longer gather in-person, FoodCorps continued their hands-on lessons through distance learning. They adapted 35 classroom activities for students’ homes and service members created more than 150 video lessons.

Some service members, like Maggie Blumenthal in Sheepscot Valley, Maine teamed up with their school’s history and literacy teachers to produce a Garden To Table video series. The videos teach students about growing herbs at home and using different types of seeds. Nutrition lessons also engage the school’s chefs, who share simple recipes for kids to follow at home. “Even though the transition was a bit rocky from in-school to virtual teaching, the students are excelling at engaging with teachers, peers, and family members,” Blumenthal tells Food Tank.

But not all students can watch Blumenthal’s lessons. Upwards of 26 percent of households in Somerville, ME may not have internet access, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. “There is a large percentage of families that do not have reliable access to the internet,” says Blumenthal. Many of her students are unable to access the Zoom calls and YouTube videos she utilizes. For now, the school is working to provide physical copies of lessons to these students.

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