Why FoodCorps is Paying Our Corps Members the Maximum Stipend Allowed by AmeriCorps

FoodCorps has just reached a milestone in our work. Starting in the 2023-2024 school year, our AmeriCorps members will receive a living stipend of $33,000—the maximum stipend allowable for AmeriCorps grantees like FoodCorps—regardless of where they live. 

Until now, we haven’t had the resources to offer the maximum stipend allowed by AmeriCorps. That changed recently, thanks to increased financial support from many of our partners—and it means we’re more able to act on our values. 

“Paying our service members a living wage, or as close to a living wage as AmeriCorps regulations allow, is critical from a justice standpoint,” said Curt Ellis, FoodCorps CEO and co-founder. “It removes the barriers to service for people who want the opportunity to serve in FoodCorps, contribute to their community, and advance their career, but who don’t have generational affluence. It is a huge commitment we can make toward building a service force that is reflective of the students FoodCorps serves.” 

When FoodCorps was launched in 2011, offering a lower stipend per service member meant we could afford to place more corps members. But over the years, we learned that a bigger FoodCorps wasn’t necessarily a better FoodCorps, and it certainly wasn’t a more just one. For a more accessible and higher-quality program, we needed to direct funds toward higher-paid corps members and a service force that increasingly reflects the identities of the kids we work with. 

More than 80% of students we serve are kids of color. More than 80% of kids we serve rely on free and reduced-price school meals for their daily nourishment. And we can better serve those students if our corps members share their backgrounds and life experiences. By increasing living stipends, we can engage more corps members who have experienced systemic barriers to accumulating intergenerational wealth and, in that way, have more in common with their students. 

We can sustainably offer higher stipends thanks to three sources of financial support: 

  • A larger investment from AmeriCorps, including our participation in the new Public Health AmeriCorps program
  • Higher program fees, reflecting a commitment from our programmatic partners to a higher-quality service program and higher wages
  • Support from our philanthropic partners, who have committed to supporting higher stipends as an investment in equity 

This support also allows us to offer equal stipends across different locations. Previously, corps members received different living stipends based on the cost of living in their state. Paying equal wages across states deepens the impact of our work by directly investing money in communities that historically have less wealth due to redlining and systemic divestment.

We also realize that in some regions where we serve, like Oakland or New York City, $33,000 for 11 months of service is still not a living wage. We will continue to advocate for AmeriCorps maximum living stipends to reach a living wage everywhere, such as through our involvement with Voices for National Service, which helps protect, grow, and innovate in national service.

Still, we’re celebrating this milestone for FoodCorps and looking forward to the ways it will help us achieve our vision: that every child, in every school, experiences the joy and power of food.

Interested in joining FoodCorps? Applications are now open!