Fifty young people from around the United States are converging this week in  Wisconsin to launch FoodCorps, the new national service organization dedicated to addressing childhood obesity and diet-related disease by building school gardens and developing Farm to School programs. 

Chosen from more than 1,200 applicants, the first class of FoodCorps Service Members will spend the week training for their yearlong placements. The orientation includes a full day at the renowned Growing Power Community Food Center where they will receive hands-on instruction about building gardens, educating children about healthy food, and more.  

“These young leaders are dedicating a year of their lives to help give kids a relationship with healthy food that we hope will last a lifetime,” said IATP Food and Community Fellow Curt Ellis, co-founder and executive director of FoodCorps, and co-creator of the award-winning documentary, “King Corn.”

After the training is complete, members will report to host sites in 10 states: Arkansas, Arizona, Iowa, Maine, Massachusetts, Michigan, Mississippi, New Mexico, North Carolina and Oregon.

Across the nation and the political spectrum, people understand that American children are in a health crisis. The number of obese children has tripled in the last 30 years, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. 

“As a nation, we are tightening our fiscal belt, yet health-related obesity costs are projected to reach $344 billion by 2018. FoodCorps is a sound investment in a healthy future and gives our kids a chance to beat back the painful and costly epidemic of diet-related disease,” said co-founder and FoodCorps Program Director Debra Eschmeyer,herself a produce farmer, former outreach director of the National Farm to School Network and IATP Food and Community Fellow.

In addition to establishing school gardens, FoodCorps Service Members will work with local food service directors to source more school meal ingredients from local farmers. They will also provide nutrition education to students. 

FoodCorps is an independent nonprofit organization. It has received early funding from the Corporation for National and Community Service (AmeriCorps), the W.K. Kellogg Foundation, the Draper Richards Kaplan Foundation and other foundation and individual donors.