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FoodCorps Expanding to Hawai`i, Seeking Service Members

Posted February 8, 2013, 06:52 PM HST
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Students from Pūnana Leo o Hilo Preschool in Kea‘au prepare their school garden for planting. Photo courtesy of the Hawai‘i Island School Garden Network.

FoodCorps, a national organization addressing childhood obesity and food shortages in under-served communities, is recruiting throughout the state.

The organization, which has chosen The Kohala Center as its host site in Hawai`i, is seeking service members passionate about healthy food, farms and kids to connect keiki to real food and help them grow up health, said center spokeswoman Janis Wong.

FoodCorps this year is adding Hawai`i, California and New Jersey to the 12 states in which it previously operated. It is looking to recruit 10 service members in Hawai`i.

Applicants must be 18 years of age or older and hold a high school diploma, GED or equivalent.

Those selected will dedicate a year of full-time public service in school food systems helping to expand nutrition education programs. That includes building and tending school gardens and bringing high-quality, locally produced foods into schools.

Participants will receive a $15,000 living allowance; basic health, vision and dental insurance and partial childcare reimbursements, the spokeswoman said.

Those who complete their 1,700 hours of service will receive a $5,500 AmeriCorps Segal Education Award which can be used to pay tuition or repay qualified student loans.

All service members will receive training as well as mentoring from food system leaders on topics related to food, farming, nutrition, cooking and public health.

“Each site and community in Hawai‘i is unique, but there are common qualities we will be looking for in each of the local applicants,” said Nancy Redfeather, project director of The Kohala Center’s Hawai‘i Island School Garden Network, who will serve as director of Hawai‘i’s FoodCorps program.

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“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.

Since its inception in 2010, FoodCorps has gained national attention by providing an innovative, grassroots, scalable approach to solving the United States’ obesity epidemic, Wong said.

Since 1980, the percentage of American children who are overweight or obese has doubled, Wong said in a statement issued today. With one in four children struggling with hunger and one in three obese or overweight, FoodCorps addresses the root cause of both: access to healthy food, she said.

Kohala Center’s Hawai`i Island School Garden Network is one of 10 FoodCorps service sites in the state.

The 2012 Hawai‘i School Garden Survey found that school gardens were sprouting in communities all over the state. According to Wong, a total of 168 schools now have school garden programs, with 21,577 students and 830 teachers maintaining gardens on nearly 30 acres of land.

All service site organizations are members of the Hawai‘i Farm to School and School Garden Hui, a statewide coalition of school garden networks and organizations. The hui collaborates with government agencies, businesses, and University of Hawai‘i at Mānoa master gardeners to build capacity, create professional development opportunities, recommend policy, engage in advocacy, and research and evaluate programs.

Applications are due March 24. More information and an online application are available at http://foodcorps.org/become-a-service-member.

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