FoodCorps is a nationwide organization under the AmeriCorps umbrella. Service members are in 18 states working to connect kids to healthy food in school. Their work focuses on three areas of service: hands on learning, healthy school meals, and supporting a school wide culture of health.
Here in Oregon, our service member, Tracy Ryan, was one of a cohort of 10 members serving at different sites. Service members are able to choose to serve a second year, and we are thrilled that Tracy has elected to serve an additional year with us! FoodCorps elevates all the work we do in our Garden For Every School program, and we look forward to deepening our experience in the year ahead. Here some highlights of the great work Tracy accomplished this past year.
Tracy served intensively at Three Rivers School in Sunriver, reaching 280 students through hands-on classroom presentations about gardening and nutrition and a school-wide cafeteria tasting. She led weekly nutrition and garden related lessons in the Three Rivers ‘”garden room” at school. She worked with Wellness Committee teachers to utilize their three indoor mobile garden carts created from shopping carts. They were able to harvest from this indoor garden multiple times throughout the school year! (Our previous FoodCorps Service Member, Claire Londagin, was instrumental in assisting teachers researching designs and equipment to make this successful.) Tracy made herself known throughout the school, even in classes she didn’t work with. She was a regular presence in the cafeteria – teaching kids about portion sizes, identifying new salad bar offerings, and simply modeling eating healthy lunches. (It also didn’t hurt that she was known as as the “carrot lady” by wearing a carrot costume at multiple school-wide events!)
Tracy taught 111 students for over 10 hours, which is FoodCorps’ benchmark that has been shown to make the most impact in children’s behavior change regarding trying new foods. This was confirmed when Vegetable Preference survey results from two classrooms that received over 13 hours of FoodCorps instruction revealed that more than half of the students reported improved nutrition choices. Students indicated a positive change in their vegetable preferences when compared to the same survey at the start of the school year.
Tracy also supported Bear Creek Elementary School’s weekly in-school Garden Club, and had a weekly presence in their cafeteria supporting healthy school breakfast and lunch choices.
Healthy School Meals
Through FoodCorps, we participated in a nationwide pilot project called the Tasty Challenge, where kids tried a sample of one food prepared two different ways, then voted on their favorite. This method is backed by research that indicates when someone has to choose one item as their favorite, they are more inclined to consider trying that item again – as opposed to just saying they liked it or didn’t like it. The students loved trying fresh carrots vs roasted carrots and voting for their favorite. (Fresh carrots won that round!) The Nutrition Services staff at school were so on board with how smooth it went, they have already worked with Tracy to pencil out a Tuesday Tasting every month for the upcoming school year! We are excited about the potential of collaborating with Nutrition Services in this way, and see opportunities for highlighting how the cafeteria is also an important part of a student’s educational experience at school.
School-wide Culture of Health
Our team also supported Wellness Committee teachers to think through and complete the Bend La Pine School District’s new School Garden Development Application, as well as meeting with the BLPS District Staff to ensure that all parties were on the same page. As a result, Three Rivers courtyard garden will be the district’s first outdoor school garden to be officially approved since this process has been put in place! They have already started to receive in-kind and financial support, and will begin building when school starts in the fall. Tracy is looking forward to helping build this garden, and more importantly, to support teachers wanting to integrate the outdoor and indoor garden into their existing curriculum for the long term.
THANK YOU, TRACY! It’s been a fantastic year and we’re just getting started.