Introducing Epicuriosa’s New Gig
When I first started this blog, I had just finished spending two crazy, exciting years working for a celebrity chef, and was looking to find a way to establish a career in food policy and Public Health. My dream was to find a path where I could use my passion for food to create long-term, large-scale change in the way this country–and the world–thinks about food. Epicuriosa became a forum and an opportunity for me to explore initiatives in this field and begin to solidify my own food ethos. It has been an amazing outlet for creativity, critical reflection, and connection with food systems thinkers. I love this blog. So I wouldn’t have abandoned it for such a long time unless it was for a really, really good reason.
FoodCorps is that really good reason.
I learned about FoodCorps in the winter of last year. Finally, an initiative that would rally our generation’s desire to make change in a sustainable, scalable, national-level way. People had been calling for a program like this for a very long time, but nobody had pushed it into existence yet. At that time I was in the middle of my MPH, trying to navigate a career change from the world of restaurants and celebrity chefs to nutrition and food policy.
I was so excited about FoodCorps, and so eager to get involved, that I immediately e-mailed Curt Ellis (the Executive Director and co-creator of “King Corn”) and asked him if he would meet with me and chat about the organization. He was very busy putting together this program and was being barraged with e-mails just like mine, so what I heard back was something to the effect of, “Sure! We’d love your help!–we’ll let you know when we’re ready for it.”
But I wanted to get involved now! And I was very pushy. I made it my mission to convince the team that I could be an asset to their organization. Maybe it was the right time, right place, or maybe just the fact that I wouldn’t take no for an answer, but the team agreed to take me on as their Summer Associate, and the rest is program-launching, world-changing history. Mission accomplished.
So what, exactly, is FoodCorps, and why is it so great?
FoodCorps harnesses the energy and passion of young people who want to dedicate their lives to improving the way children eat. They want to teach kids and their communities what healthy food is, how to grow and cook it, and put it on their plates in the lunch room. We realized that there weren’t yet many career opportunities in this field where young people can do this type of work. So we’re giving them career experience by placing them directly in the communities that need them the most.
In this fashion, we’re building capacity for grassroots organizations that are doing great work on the ground. Rather than developing a whole new infrastructure in each community where we work, we’re identifying these existing organizations and arming them with the resources to deepen and broaden the impact of the great work they are already doing. We also hope to be the connecting bridge that will allow these organizations to share their successes and challenges, so that we can more quickly and easily replicate programs that work.
In this year, our first, 50 FoodCorps Service Members are working in diverse communities across 10 states (Arizona, Arkansas, Iowa, Maine, Massachusetts, Mississippi, Michigan, North Carolina, New Mexico, and Oregon). By 2020, we hope to have 1,000 Service Members in all 50 states (and DC!). It’s an ambitious growth plan, but we think we can get there: in our first year, we received 1,229 applications for 50 Service Member positions!
Of course, any expansion will depend on whether we can get enough funding. Currently, about one-third of our funding comes from an AmeriCorps grant (that’s federal money); the rest comes from foundations and individual donors. As we grow, FoodCorps will rely more and more on individual contributions from people who want to see the food system change.
You’d love to help, you say?
Great! If I’ve inspired you to contribute to FoodCorps, you can donate to us online here. If you want to stay informed about what we’re doing, you should sign up for our mailing list. You can also help us bring school gardens to schools around the country by donating to our Garden Grants project at the checkout of your local Whole Foods.
As you can probably tell, I’m thrilled to have dedicated to my summer to this organization, and am wholly committed to its cause. Apart from that, it’s been an absolute honor working with the FoodCorps team. Literally, I’m sitting side by side with my heroes every day. Their passion and commitment is what’s making this dream of creating enduring change an accessible reality. And I can’t say I mind spending every day working next to people who also really, really love food.
It’s been an incredible summer. Luckily, the adventure’s not over yet–I’ll be sticking with the team this fall as their Communications and Development Coordinator.
So while Epicuriosa may not rear her head here very often, she’ll be putting her skills to use in other venues.
You heard it from me: FoodCorps is gonna be BIG. Stay tuned!
The Garden Grants Project [FoodCorps and Whole Kids Foundation]
“Food’s New Foot Soldiers” [Mark Bittman, New York Times]
Entry filed under: About Me, Health, In The News. Tags: AmeriCorps, education, Farm to School, FoodCorps, Healthy Kids, Nutrition Education, philanthropy, Public Service, School Gardens, Service Members.