This past week, 11 California FoodCorps service members gathered in Santa Cruz at the Life Lab Garden Classroom to engage in a three day training to learn how to connect kids to real food and see first-hand some of the best school garden and Farm to School models in action.
Now in its third year, FoodCorps, a national organization that addresses childhood obesity and food insecurity, has 125 service members serving in 15 states. As a member of the AmeriCorps Service Network, FoodCorps trains a team of emerging leaders and sends them to underserved areas for a year of service, where they teach kids about what healthy food is and where it comes from, build and tend school gardens, and bring high-quality local food into public school cafeterias.
FoodCorps California, is being managed by co-hosts Life Lab and the Community Alliance with Family Farmers, also known as CAFF.
Members spent day one of the training reflecting on their first month of service and getting to know each other. They also learned about different garden activities, the components of Farm to School programs and how to build support in the communities that they serve.
On the second day of the training the FoodCorps service members joined Life Lab’s Plant It, Grow It, Eat It workshop that focused on the principles of Garden-Enhanced Nutrition Education (GENE). Service Members joined with 19 other school garden professionals and learned specific lessons to encourage good eating habits and healthy lifestyles by combining nutrition education with hands-on garden activities and opportunities to taste different foods.
Day three of the training was topped off by attending the Santa Cruz Area School Food and Garden tour which visited some of the longest on-going garden programs in the state and included a meal prepared by Pacific School Food Lab students.
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Threshing wheat as part of the Plant It, Grow It, Eat It Workshop.
The last three days emphasized how widespread the struggle is to make health and nutrition education a priority for kids, but it also showed that change is possible. It is amazing what can happen when communities, including children, come together for the better of all. – Mary Tyranski – Service Member San Diego Unified
Westlake Life Lab Garden Coordinator Jane Forbes welcomes FoodCorps Service Members and the rest of the School Food and Garden Tour goers.
As a FoodCorps service member tasked with starting a garden program at my site, it was a true privilege to visit LifeLab's garden and spend some time touring their garden, running through different activities, and talking to my fellow service members about what's working for them at their sites. I left the training so energized, motivated, and filled with many great ideas for helping to make my site's garden program the best it can be! – Christyna Serrano, Service Member at Oakland Unified School District
Westlake Garden 4th Grade Lesson observation.
Pacific School Food Lab instructor Violy works with a Food Lab student to prepare school lunch.
The Food Lab Chefs at Pacific School were so impressive. I got a kick out of watching the manager trot around with his clipboard making conversions for recipes. The students were so focused and collaborative, it was inspiring to see. – Keegan Niland, Service Member with the Gardens Project in Ukiah
Food Lab students making lunch.
When kids plant their food, water it, watch it grow and then serve it, it truly connects them to their meal. The proof is in this kitchen – look how proud these little chefs are! – Mary Tyranski – Service Member San Diego Unified
Delicious Food Lab meal of chicken noodle soup, cheesy broccoli soup, fresh baked rolls, and salad.
Visiting with DeLaveaga School Life Lab coordinator Kim Gal who explains a stem dissection lesson.
Getting schooled in farm to school with Live Oak School District Food Service Director Rachel Otis.
Sampling rainbow rice at Live Oak School District.
I loved the idea of Rachel's Rainbow Rice. I picked it apart like a scientist in hopes of discovering all the wonderful things that made it. I thought I tasted sunflower seeds, but it was wild rice! – Keegan Niland, Service Member with the Gardens Project in Ukiah
Touring Live Oak's new central kitchen.
Throughout the 3-day orientation led by Life Lab and CAFF and the workshops, I was continuously impressed by the work of my fellow service members. As we discussed challenges and success stories we were also able to visit local elementary schools within Santa Cruz. One of the sites visited was Pacific Elementary in Davenport, and I could not reiterate enough how impressive it was to see elementary school children gardening as well as preparing food for the school. I kept asking if I could go to school there just so that I could be a part of it. It was definitely a model I would love to see at every site I am serving with! – Ally Lemmer, Service Member with CAFF and Life Lab in Santa Cruz County