By FoodCorps AmeriCorps Service Member Adriana Perez for Bronx Health REACH
I recently returned from FoodCorps’ National Orientation in Portland, Oregon, where I was able to take a deep dive into planning for my second year of service at the Sheridan Academy for Young Leaders (PS457)/The Family School (PS443) in the Bronx.
During the week-long orientation, I brainstormed with FoodCorps staff and service members from across the country, led a session on how to overcome challenging work relationships, renewed my energy and ambitions for the coming school year through project management workshops, and formed a new appreciation for all the work that I accomplished last year.
This year, I will not only be working at the two schools, but I will be returning to school myself. I will be entering a Master’s program at New York University in Food Studies with a concentration in Food Policy and Advocacy. My courses will help me to expand my knowledge on food system issues, increase my understanding of how food and cultures intersect, and learn how to effectively advocate for food system change. My FoodCorps experience at PS457 and PS443 last year has deepened and solidified my belief that not only should healthy, sustainable food be available to every community, but that every community should have the opportunity to learn more about where food comes from, how to prepare it, and how to have a balanced relationship with food. Through my studies at NYU, I will have the knowledge to educate my school community in local food systems and policy, and train them to be school wellness champions.
This year, I have decided to focus on three areas of technical assistance: garden program development, cafeteria renovation, and professional development for teachers. Last year, I worked with the Wellness Council, students, and teachers at PS457 and PS443 to rebuild the schools’ garden spaces. I learned how to navigate scheduling conflicts for garden classes and garden management support from students, staff, and parents. This year, teachers will be able to schedule their classes on a regular basis to visit the gardens. Garden clubs can help plant, maintain, and harvest gardens on their own school properties as well as the community garden, a garden managed by both schools. Once the vegetables and herbs are ready to harvest, parents will be able to pick up or harvest vegetables during dismissal.