ORONO, Maine — The University of Maine Cooperative Extension is one of 10 organizations selected to partner with FoodCorps, a new national AmeriCorps school garden and farm-to-school service program.
Set to launch next year, FoodCorps will serve vulnerable children, improving access to healthful, affordable food while training young leaders for careers in food and agriculture.
“UMaine Cooperative Extension is very excited to be part of the FoodCorps project,” John Rebar, the extension’s executive director, said in a press release. “We have been committed to healthy kids, food production and building tomorrow’s leaders for over 90 years. This project matches our values with that of the AmeriCorps program for the betterment of Maine children and schools. It’s a real win-win for everyone.”
FoodCorps will put 82 members on the ground in 10 states to work 139,400 hours during the 2011-12 school year. Using the public service model of AmeriCorps, FoodCorps will leverage federal funds to place young adults in high-need communities, with the mission of improving children’s education about healthful food while working to increase their access to it.
“Getting kids connected with local food sources and involved in gardening projects leads to having them involved in food preparation and cooking projects,” said Ellen Libby, an Extension specialist in youth development. “As a result, they often learn to broaden their food horizons and make better food choices. Farm-to-school programs and school garden projects are sprouting up throughout Maine’s 16 counties. Those programs will continue to grow and blossom thanks to FoodCorps and the service members who will enhance current efforts.”
FoodCorps service members will build and tend school gardens, conduct nutrition education and increase the quality of food served in the lunchroom, the UMaine press release said. FoodCorps also aims to grow the next generation of farmers and food systems professionals through hands-on experience. Although service members will receive training and support from the FoodCorps national office, daily work will be directed by local organizations working in their home communities.
UMaine’s Extension program was one of 10 chosen from 108 proposals submitted from 39 states and the District of Columbia.