Helping Grow Healthy Kids: FoodCorps Chooses UMaine Cooperative Extension as a Partner for its Ten-State Launch

Contact: Debra Eschmeyer at (419) 905-8612
Ellen Libby at (207) 832-0343

High-caliber organizations with demonstrated experience implementing Farm to School and school garden programs selected as inaugural host sites for 2011

NEW YORK CITY –  FoodCorps, a new national AmeriCorps school garden and Farm to School service program, has selected University of Maine Cooperative Extension as one of ten partners to collaborate on a national launch in 2011. FoodCorps will serve vulnerable children, improving access to healthy, affordable food, while training young leaders for careers in food and agriculture.

“UMaine Cooperative Extension is very excited to be part of the FoodCorps project,” says John Rebar, Extension’s executive director. “We have been committed to healthy kids, food production and building tomorrow’s leaders for over 90 years.  This project matches our values with that of the AmeriCorps program for the betterment of Maine children and schools. It’s a real win-win for everyone.”

In the spirit of service for healthier kids, FoodCorps will put 82 members on the ground in 10 states to work 139,400 hours during the 2011-2012 school year. Utilizing the public service model of AmeriCorps, FoodCorps leverages federal funds to place young adults in high-need communities, with the mission of improving children’s education about healthy food while working to increase access to it. FoodCorps service members will build and tend school gardens, conduct nutrition education and increase the quality of the food served in the lunchroom. FoodCorps also aims to grow the next generation of farmers and food systems professionals through hands-on experience.

“Getting kids connected with local food sources and involved in gardening projects leads to having them involved in food preparation and cooking projects.  As a result, they often learn to broaden their food horizons and make better food choices,” says Ellen Libby of Cooperative Extension, who specializes in youth development. “Farm to school programs and school garden projects are sprouting up throughout Maine’s 16 counties. Those programs will continue to grow and blossom thanks to FoodCorps and the service members who will enhance current efforts.”

Service members will receive training and support from the FoodCorps national office, yet daily work will be directed by high-impact organizations working in their home communities. In a competitive selection process, the FoodCorps planning team reviewed 108 host site proposals submitted from 39 states and the District of Columbia requesting 512 service members and partnering with 1240 groups. The ten selected host sites all possess proven records of success in improving the quality of school food, capacity to grow with FoodCorps across their region and compelling community need that service members will readily address.

These are the 2011-2012 FoodCorps host sites, announced today:

  • Arkansas: The Delta Garden Study at Arkansas Children’s Hospital Research Institute
  • Arizona: Johns Hopkins Center for American Indian Health
  • Iowa: National Center for Appropriate Technology
  • Massachusetts: The Food Project
  • Maine: University of Maine Cooperative Extension
  • Michigan: C.S. Mott Group at Michigan State University
  • Mississippi: Mississippi Roadmap to Health Equity
  • North Carolina: North Carolina 4-H and the Center for Environmental Farming Systems
  • New Mexico: Office of Community Learning and Public Service at the University of New Mexico
  • Oregon: Oregon Department of Agriculture

“These organizations all demonstrated a clear commitment to combating childhood obesity through hands-on Farm to School and school garden programs,” says Debra Eschmeyer, a FoodCorps founder. “Essentially a domestic Peace Corps, FoodCorps is now poised for a fruitful first year.”

“We are proud to help scale up these efforts to improve nutrition education around the country. By working collaboratively, we can reverse obesity rates and help children avoid the ravages of diet-related illnesses,” adds Curt Ellis, a FoodCorps founder.

“Selecting just ten sites from 108 applicants and 22 finalists was an enormously challenging task,” says Cecily Upton, a founder of FoodCorps. “All our finalists demonstrated a tremendous amount of need in the communities they serve, making the decision that much more difficult.”

As a pioneer in applying the proven model of national service to the widening epidemic of childhood obesity, FoodCorps and the 10 chosen host sites are poised to improve the well-being of thousands of children in its first year and millions over the next decade.

For more information on FoodCorps and how to participate in the program, visit

FoodCorps is a national AmeriCorps program that focuses on service in rural, urban, and suburban school food systems that have children challenged with high rates of obesity and limited access to healthy foods. Service members will build and tend school gardens, conduct hands-on nutrition education experiences, and facilitate Farm to School programming that brings high quality local food into public schools. The program will serve vulnerable children, improving access to healthy, affordable school meals, and train a cadre of leaders for careers in food and agriculture. FoodCorps, a New York based nonprofit organization, was developed with funding from AmeriCorps and the WK Kellogg Foundation, in partnership with Occidental College, the National Farm to School Network, Slow Food USA, The National Center for Appropriate Technology, and Wicked Delicate, as part of an open planning process that engaged thousands of stakeholders from around the country.  For more information about FoodCorps visit

The University of Maine, founded in 1865, is the state’s premier public university, located in the town of Orono. It is among the most comprehensive higher education institutions in the Northeast and attracts students from across the U.S. and more than 60 countries. It currently enrolls 12,000 total undergraduate and graduate students who can directly participate in groundbreaking research working with world-class scholars. Students are offered 88 bachelor’s degree programs, 64 master’s degree programs, 25 doctoral programs and one of the oldest and most prestigious honors programs in the U.S. The university promotes environmental stewardship on its campus, with substantial efforts aimed at conserving energy, recycling and adhering to green building standards in new construction. For more information about the University of Maine visit