2010 President's Report

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How do we ensure that children have access to healthy foods? WITH SUPPORT FROM THE SPARTANS, YOUNG LEADERS GET A FIRST TASTE OF THE REAL WORLD BY FEEDING OTHERS.

Even in the Land of Plenty, plenty go hungry, including—tragically—millions of children. That’s why Michigan State University is attacking hunger at the roots by helping initiate FoodCorps, a national school garden- and farm-to-school service program modeled after AmeriCorps.

MSU’s C.S. Mott Group for Sustainable Food Systems is supporting the launch of the program, which aims to train young adults to be leaders in communities across the United States and help make healthy, affordable food available to children.

Amid the public outcry over the state of our nation’s school lunch programs—not to mention rising child obesity rates—MSU and fellow FoodCorps partners are recruiting young adults to dedicate a year of service to high-need K–12 schools around the nation. Corps volunteers will assist schools and community groups in establishing school gardens, procuring fresh fruits and vegetables from local farmers for school cafeterias, and providing nutrition education to young students.

“This is about increasing access to local fruits and vegetables in school lunches,” says Colleen Matts, the C.S. Mott Group farm-to-institution specialist who is coordinating MSU’s FoodCorps efforts. “It’s also about increasing economic development opportunities for local farmers and food businesses.”

FoodCorps is launching in 10 pilot states, with plans to become active in all 50. As a host site, MSU will collaborate with the national FoodCorps office to help recruit and select volunteers and will supervise the work in Michigan communities. The program’s efforts in Michigan will target high-needs schools in Grand Rapids, Flint, Ypsilanti, and Detroit, as well as rural schools in parts of the northwestern Lower Peninsula.

Michigan State is a natural fit to lead this new sustainable effort. MSU’s C.S. Mott Group is a member of the national Farm-to-School Network and has been working with farm-to-school programs throughout the state since 2004, establishing relationships with farmers and school food service directors.

“MSU had the foresight to see this coming,” Matts says of MSU’s ongoing efforts to improve school lunch programs statewide. “We’ve been able to handle training at a much larger scale. That benefits our kids and our farmers and has the potential to affect most Michigan residents. Anywhere you find food, we have the opportunity to have an effect.”

American children aren’t the only ones to benefit. Young adults who volunteer with the program will be trained in community leadership and will get a taste of careers in education, health, agriculture, and public service—all while serving vulnerable children by improving access to healthy, affordable food.

A new kind of Green Revolution is afoot across America. And it’s no surprise to see the Spartans out in front.

For more information:

C. S. Mott Group for Sustainable Food Systems

Food Corps

This project is supported by FoodCorps, a 501 (c)(3) nonprofit organization.