FoodCorps Hawai’i News Release
The national FoodCorps program is recruiting service members throughout Hawaii who are passionate about teaching children what healthy food is, where it comes from, and expanding hands-on nutrition education programs.
FoodCorps, a national organization addressing childhood obesity and food insecurity in underserved communities, operates in 15 states, including Hawaii. The program plans to expand to Georgia and Washington, D.C. in the fall of 2014, pending funding.
On Molokai, Simon Mendes, a FoodCorps Hawai‘i service member works with Sust‘ainable Molokai. One of two FoodCorps Hawai‘i service members selected from the continental U.S., Mendes said he has learned and experienced many unique things while serving on the island.
“It has been an amazing opportunity and experience, and I really love the work,” Mendes said. “The Hawai‘i School Garden Network has been so supportive and the hands-on approach to gardening really works for kids.”
FoodCorps is currently accepting applications for service members for the 2014-2015 academic year, including service members for its second year in Hawaii. Applicants must be 18 years or older by the start of service and hold a high school diploma, GED, or equivalent. Applications are due March 30. More information and an online application are available online at foodcorps.org.
Selected FoodCorps service members engage in the program’s three pillars of service: knowledge, engagement, and access. To expand the connection between hands-on learning and core curriculum, they work with teachers to integrate a series of food and nutrition activity lessons into classes as diverse as health, math, English, and science. FoodCorps service members grow healthy food with students, teachers, and community members in school and community gardens, connecting children with their food and the ‘aina (land, earth). They also assist in building relationships between Hawai‘i farms and local schools in an effort to increase children’s access to healthy food in school cafeterias.
The Kohala Center, a non-profit, community-based center for research, education, and conservation on Hawaii Island, was selected by FoodCorps to serve as the host site for the state of Hawaii. As host site The Center manages several service sites across the state, serves as liaison with the national program, and shares responsibility for evaluation and accountability. The seven FoodCorps Hawai‘i service sites for the 2013-2014 academic year are:
• MA‘O Organic Farms, O‘ahu
• Sust‘ainable Molokai, Moloka‘i
• Kohala Elementary School, Hawai‘i Island
• Honaunau Elementary School, Hawai‘i Island
• Na‘alehu Elementary School, Hawai‘i Island
• Kua O K La Public Charter School, Hawai‘i Island
• Mala‘ai: The Culinary Garden of Waimea Middle School, Hawai‘i Island
Service members selected for the program must be motivated to serve full-time in a limited resource community, and should have experience working or studying food systems, agriculture, public health, education, community organizing or public service.
Nancy Redfeather, program director of The Kohala Center’s Hawai‘i Island School Garden Network, provided advice to applicants seeking to stand out in what is expected to be a competitive field. “Ideal FoodCorps candidates will demonstrate an appreciation of local culture, values, and history; dedication and commitment to just and peaceful communities; a sense of kuleana (responsibility) to foster youth and community; the ability to engage community stakeholders toward positive action; and openness and willingness to create innovative practices around building food systems,” she said.
Service members dedicate one year of full-time (35.5 hours on average per week) public service in select public schools, charter schools, and non-profit organizations, known as service sites. They each receive a $17,500 stipend; basic health, vision and dental insurance; potential student loan forbearance; and partial childcare reimbursements. Those who complete their 1,700 hours of service receive a $5,645 education award, which may be used to pay tuition or repay qualified student loans. All service members receive two national trainings, mentoring from food system leaders, as well as local and online training on topics related to food, farming, nutrition, cooking, and public health.
In its first year, FoodCorps Hawai‘i has already had a demonstrated impact locally: the program has served a total of 1,901 children throughout the state, harvested 2,224 pounds of produce in school learning gardens, helped revitalize eight school gardens on three islands, and logged at least 5,615 cumulative service hours to date.
“As this is the first year of the program here in Hawaii, much of the work of the service members is establishing relationships and laying the foundation for future programs,” said FoodCorps Fellow Amelia Pedini, who oversees the program in Hawaii. “We currently support four schools in their Fresh Fruit and Vegetable Program, and our service members are committed to working with more local farmers and distributors to celebrate the abundance of local produce from our own island communities. We want our students to understand the importance of eating locally and supporting the growers who are right in their back yard.”
FoodCorps service members measure and report on their impact on a weekly basis, using a customized online reporting system. In an evaluation partnership with the University of North Carolina, it was demonstrated that 65 percent of FoodCorps service members’ classrooms improved their students’ attitudes toward trying new fruits and vegetables.