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North Carolina has been selected as one of 10 states to pilot FoodCorps, a new national AmeriCorps school garden and Farm-to-School service program that aims to serve vulnerable children by improving access to healthy, affordable food.

Alice Ammerman, DrPH, professor of nutrition at UNC Gillings School of Global Public Health, has long been active in sustainable food and obesity prevention efforts in the state. Her expertise and leadership helped position North Carolina as an ideal pilot site.

Ammerman, who also directs UNC’s Center for Health Promotion and Disease Prevention, collaborated with the North Carolina 4-H, a youth organization committed to building citizen leaders with marketable skills, and the Center for Environmental Farming Systems (CEFS), a partnership between N.C. State and N.C. A&T universities and the N.C. Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services.

The FoodCorps in North Carolina will place between eight and 10 members in about five North Carolina schools, contributing more than 1,300 work hours to build and tend gardens, conduct nutrition education, and increase the amount of local, fresh produce served in lunchroom cafeterias. The pilot school locations are planned for Gaston, Moore, Guilford, Warren and New Hanover/Brunswick counties.
HPDP’s Harvest of Hope project partners with Coley Springs Missionary Baptist Church in Warrenton to help create a church-based community garden and the Faith, Farming and the Future project expands that approach to four churches in the area. The FoodCorps members will partner with HPDP researchers on this work and other food issues in the area.

Elizabeth Driscoll, MS, extension associate and 4-H specialist at N.C. State University, and Tes Thraves, community-based food systems coordinator at CEFS, will oversee the program in North Carolina. Driscoll and Thraves have partnered with the Physical Activity and Nutrition Branch of the N.C. Division of Public Health, extension offices, NGOs and schools to increase capacity and success of school garden programs. Robin Crowder and Molly DeMarco, with the Gillings Sustainable Food Systems project, were instrumental in writing the North Carolina Food Corps proposal and will assist Ammerman with implementation.

Across the U.S., FoodCorps will field more than 80 people who will work nearly 140,000 hours during the 2011-2012 school year to improve the well-being of thousands of children.

In addition to North Carolina, program states include Arkansas, Arizona, Iowa, Massachusetts, Maine, Michigan, Mississippi, New Mexico and Oregon.

The national corps envisions young adults offering a year of public service in school food systems. Using AmeriCorps’ successful model, FoodCorps will leverage federal funds to place future farmers and food system professionals in high-need communities and provide them with hands-on experience and training in food system literacy and programming, food production and advocacy for the wellness of children.

“We intend for the N.C. FoodCorps to become one piece of our collaborative effort to increase North Carolina’s capacity for healthy food infrastructure toward a local, sustainable food system,” Ammerman says. “We are so excited about this effort through the state’s 4-H and Center for Environmental Farming Systems and proud of the network of partners that makes the work possible.”

Article from the UNC Gillings School of Global Public Health

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