FoodCorps Service Member Gets Taste of Umatilla

By Jessica Pollard for the East Oregonian 

Ellie Dutcher
Ellie Dutcher

The best is yet to come for Ellie Dutcher.

Dutcher, who recently graduated from Southern Oregon University, moved to Umatilla this summer to serve as one of nine FoodCorps service members across Oregon.

Being part of FoodCorps — an AmeriCorps grantee — means whipping up snacks and serving nutritious lesson plans at McNary Heights Elementary all year long. During their one-year terms, service members like Dutcher aim to connect kids to healthy food.

But what she’s really excited for is growing a garden — which will likely house herbs, as well as all the makings for salsa — with the students this spring.

“We’ll plant the seeds, and we’ll grow them together,” she said. “And in the spring, we’ll get to eat them together. That’s where I think the magic will happen. When kids are that connected to the food, you see some minds change.”

Because part of her role is introducing foods that will be in the cafeteria to Umatilla’s elementary-schoolers via taste tests, Dutcher knows that kids can be critics when it comes to cuisine.

“Kids will look at me like, ‘Oh, that’s gross,’” she said. “I slowly convince them to try something, and their face will light up.”