Earlier this week I met the five founders of Food Corps, a project so exciting my breath caught when I heard about it. The idea is straightforward: much like the Peace Corps (an organization, for obvious reasons, close to my heart) and its domestic counterpart AmeriCorps, Food Corps is being established on the principle that, especially in a down economy, enthusiastic youth in need of jobs and work experience could offer their labor in return for hands-on training in school-based farming and agriculture. At the same time, they would provide much needed manpower to meet the exploding interest in school gardens and farm-to-school education for children, particularly in underserved communities.
The Food Corps founding committee – which includes Crissy McMullan of the National Center for Appropriate Technology, the National Farm to School Network’s Debra Eschmeyer, documentary filmmaker Curt Ellis (King Corn), Slow Food USA’s Jerusha Klemperer and her former colleague Cecily Upton, all pictured above – have been ironing out the project’s scope and details, and hope to secure a solid financial commitment from AmeriCorps in several months. (Their work to date has been supported by AmeriCorps and the W.K. Kellogg Foundation.)
How cool is this? Can’t you envision the potential for this program? The Peace Corps has operated on a similar model for 50 years, taking eager youth (and, more recently, mid-career professionals and retirees), and pairing them with overseas sites in need of manpower. Vista and AmeriCorps, of course, do this in the United States, as do organizations like Teach for America, which operates under broadly similar principles. To apply these same precepts to food and farming is inspired – the possibilities, both for the volunteers and, more importantly, the communities they’d serve, would narrow the gap between what we’re all clamoring for (healthier food systems, teaching kids where their food comes from) and where we currently find ourselves.
Hey AmeriCorps, three words for you: fund this program.
(For more information, or to get involved, click here.)