An outstanding organization was launched last week. FoodCorps National Service Program, a new branch of AmeriCorps, is akin to PeaceCorps: young people dedicate a relatively large chunk of time toward a cause. But unlike PeaceCorps, volunteers will be staying local, and focusing on food.
Primarily, FoodCorps will address the growing amount of “food deserts,” industrialized locations where produce, let alone organic and sustainable food, is virtually unattainable due to their price or unavailability.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the number of obese children has tripled in the last 30 years. Shocking statistics such as these are the motivation behind FoodCorps, whose 50 volunteers will focus their efforts on healthy nutrition education, establishing gardens in schools, and working closely with food service directors to source school meal ingredients from local farmers. Ten states will be served, including Maine, Arkansas and Oregon, and FoodCorps members will commit to one year of service.
This seems to be an exemplary program, and the grassroots approach to improving nutrition is commendable. Living in health-conscious Boulder, Colo., it is easy to forget it can be difficult to obtain natural and whole foods elsewhere. Whereas I can walk to a farmers market twice a week, the majority of products in my convenience store are unprocessed, and virtually every restaurant has vegetarian options, the produce section in a “food desert” may be sparse.
But I have high hopes for FoodCorps. In my experience, mindful eating is contagious, and perhaps the mere inspiration, the spark of and idea, is enough to elicit change.
How to know if you live in a food desert? Check the USDA's Food Environment Atlas to find out.