Inside Philanthropy: FoodCorps Gaining Steam with Philanthropists as Systems Change Solution

By Kiersten Marek

With Congress stalled on reauthorizing the Child Nutrition Act, the bill that funds our nation’s school meal programs and sets nutrition guidelines, this seems like a good time to learn about a major philanthropic initiative to improve school food. FoodCorps caught our attention because of its quick growth trajectory and critical focus: ensuring that every child has the fundamental building block of healthy food in their lives.

“The research is quite clear that kids who suffer from hunger and diet-related disease don’t fulfill their potential—they achieve less in school, attain less education, are out sick more at work, progress less in their careers, and raise families where their kids at are elevated risk of similar health problems,” said Curt Ellis, CEO of FoodCorps. “The government’s own analysis is that by 2030, when the current obesity generation is grown up, we will have a $1 trillion dollar annual economic cost from diet-related disease—$500 billion in the form of increased medical costs and $500 billion in lost productivity.”

At the same time, school communities across the country are paying attention to food like never before, and political leadership from the White House to many states is focused on combating the obesity epidemic. “There’s so much momentum to make progress right now, and so much good will, and nobody hates what we do,” said Ellis. FoodCorps now has 205 corps members serving over 500 schools across 18 states. That “nobody hates what we do” is important to note. With public schools facing so much tumult and intervention, from the controversial Common Core to pushback against programs like Teach For America, FoodCorps appears to have found a pocket of common ground where systems progress can be made.