Dear Friend of FoodCorps,
I’ll be honest: when I joined FoodCorps, I wasn’t exactly the service member poster child. I had virtually no gardening or nutrition background. What I did have was a passion for the kids in the city where I grew up, Grand Rapids, MI. By the time I became a service member, I had already spent a couple of years as an intern, tutor, and story-time leader in one of the neighborhoods where I would serve. I joined FoodCorps for the chance to continue educating those kids, and today I am a passionate believer in the power of FoodCorps.
During my service I got to experience the power of hands-on, interactive garden and nutrition education. I watched a behaviorally challenging student take on leadership roles, admonishing his peers to take turns and not to drown the plants when it was watering time. After I rescued a tray of knocked-over basil seedlings, a child who had seemed bored by my garden lessons exclaimed, “Ms. Erika, you’re the plant doctor. You saved our plants!” I had conversations with middle school girls about the difference between eating to stay thin and eating to make our bodies strong and healthy. Perhaps most special of all was sharing the joy all of those different kids and I felt when the seeds we planted finally grew into foods we recognized – pure magic. By connecting the growing experience to the eating experience in such a unique, applied way, my students began to gain the knowledge they needed to make informed decisions about their food and health.
I am passionate about education because I see it as an investment in the future of our kids. I say our kids because I truly believe that we are all responsible for the youth in our communities, for helping them grow up educated and healthy. When we start thinking of “those kids” as our kids, the imperative to help them succeed becomes that much more pressing. If our kids aren’t receiving the nutrition they need for their bodies and brains to develop properly, they can’t pay attention during school and they can’t learn. They deserve to know about issues like food insecurity and diet-related disease, about why and how these problems arise, and most importantly, about the tools they can use to join together and fight back. FoodCorps helped me develop the knowledge and experience I needed to be part of that movement. We couldn’t have done it without you.