I’ve been eagerly following the building of the FoodCorps since its creation was announced two years ago. This brand-new American national service organization—modelled in part on the Peace Corps—was launched last month, and 50 enthusiastic and motivated young people (it was apparently harder to get a spot in the FoodCorps than at Harvard!) spanned out across 41 sites and 10 states to improve nutrition education for kids; develop school garden projects; and change what’s on school lunch trays. Service members work in already-established organizations, and the focus is on areas of the country with the highest rates of childhood obesity and the least access to healthy food.
Of course, as Mark Bittman argued in The New York Times, the U.S. is going to need a lot more than 50 20somethings advocating for change to the food system if it’s going to confront the massive problems it faces. But it’s a start. And an exciting one, at that.
Young people teaching other young people about healthy food is incredibly powerful. Where teachers and other adults sometimes sound hectoring, young people (often saying the same thing) sound cool. I teach creative writing to kids alongside student teachers and the connection the kids make to these teacher candidates is immediate and profound. The kids see themselves in the young teachers, and they work hard to impress them. I’m not saying adults have nothing to offer (or I’d just go hang up my hat!), just that young people supporting younger people can be a massive force for positive change.
So where’s Canada’s FoodCorps? We’ve got many of the same problems. And the American program is apparently running on only $2 million in its inaugural year—that’s a serious bargain considering the potential impact.
In the 1960s, lots of progressive young people went into factories or back to the land to try to change the world, in the 1980s and early 90s international development projects were the rage, now it’s all about food. (Witness the crazy response to Michael Pollan and Nikki Henderson‘s new course at Berkeley, Edible Education 101: The Rise and Future of the Food Movement, if you don’t believe that people care deeply about food politics.) FoodCorps is trying to harness some of that energy and excitement (check out what some of the FoodCorps participants are hoping for during their year in the trenches here).
Wouldn’t it be amazing if a Canadian organization could do the same?