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Oregon welcomes new crop of FoodCorps members

Seven new members will spend the next year working in school food systems

The 2013-14 school year in Oregon includes seven new FoodCorps members dedicated to full-time public service in school food systems. This marks the third year that Oregon has hosted FoodCorps members at various sites around the state. Tasks performed by the members include expanding hands-on nutrition education programs, building and tending school gardens, and sourcing healthy, local food for school cafeterias.

“Our seven new FoodCorps service members have hit the ground running,” says Katy Coba, director of the Oregon Department of Agriculture. “As was the case the first two years of FoodCorps in Oregon, I’m thrilled with this group of educated and passionate members who will dedicate a year to teach our school kids about farming, Oregon agriculture, and healthy eating.”

This year’s service sites include Multnomah, Tillamook, Marion, Benton, Jackson, Josephine, and Union counties. The Oregon Department of Agriculture manages the state’s FoodCorps program and hosts a fellowship position to lead the team.

Last year’s five FoodCorps service members taught 6,673 students, generated over 400 volunteers, met with 76 Oregon farmers, and helped grow almost 1,633 pounds of produce harvested from school gardens that ended up in school cafeterias. Another 987 pounds harvested from school gardens were brought into classrooms for tastings and activities.

The seven members will serve with the following organizations:

  • Chelsey Thomsen will serve a second year with the Salem-Keizer Education Foundation in Marion County. Aaron Poplack will also serve with the Salem-Keizer Education Foundation
  • Clara Baker will serve with the Corvallis Environmental Center in Benton County
  • Becky Hume will serve with Food Roots in Tillamook County
  • Pesha Wasserstrom will serve with Growing Gardens in Multnomah County
  • Lisa Eldredge will serve with Rogue Valley Farm to School in Jackson and Josephine counties
  • Shannon Gray will serve with North Powder Charter School in Union County

In addition, Emily Ritchie continues to serve as team leader as part of the FoodCorps Fellows Program.

Each of Oregon’s seven FoodCorps members will work on a common initiative– the Oregon Harvest for Schools promotion. Created by the Oregon Department of Education and funded by the Specialty Crop Block Grant Program administered by ODA, the campaign features a monthly in-school promotion of featured produce items. Local school districts are encouraged to highlight an Oregon fruit or vegetable every month in their school meal programs, using posters, classroom lessons, and family newsletters.

FoodCorps is one of the many tools being used to further the cause of farm to school efforts.

FoodCorps is a nationwide team of leaders that seeks to serve vulnerable children, improve their access to healthy and affordable food, and train young leaders for careers in food and agriculture. Patterned after the public service model of AmeriCorps, FoodCorps is a public-private partnership that leverages federal funds to help its service members accomplish program goals. Of the 15 states selected, ODA is the only state agency to manage a state’s FoodCorps program. Most other sites include academic institutions and non-profit organizations.

The seven Oregon FoodCorps members, as well as the 125 in other sites around the nation, are committing to at least 1,700 hours of service over the next year. In exchange, the members receive a $15,000 stipend, health insurance, career mentoring, and a $5,500 education award upon completion of their service.

“The contributions FoodCorps service members make to their respective communities is well worth the investment as kids eat better, and know more about food and agriculture,” says Coba. “At the same time, our local growers gain greater access to school lunch and breakfast programs. It’s a win-win for Oregon.”

For more information, contact Emily Ritchie at (503) 872-6600. 

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