SANTA CRUZ -- FoodCorps, a national organization that connects kids with healthy food, has selected Life Lab and Community Alliance with Family Farmers, two nonprofit organizations with roots in Santa Cruz County, as its co-host sites for California.
With support from the federal public service program Americorps, FoodCorps trains a team of service members and sends them to underserved areas, where they educate students about where food comes from and how to eat healthy.
Now in its second year, FoodCorps operates in 12 states and will add California, Hawaii and New Jersey to the list this year.
As co-hosts, Life Lab and Community Alliance with Family Farmers accepted applications from more than 20 schools and organizations across California, all hoping to host a FoodCorps service member.
This month, FoodCorps announced its 10 selectees, which included the Oakland Unified School District and the UC Cooperative Extension in San Andreas. Two service members will be stationed in Santa Cruz, working in Life Lab's 2-acre educational garden on the UC Santa Cruz campus.
The garden hosts teacher workshops and field trips, and will now be the training ground for FoodCorps service members before they disperse across the state.
To manage the new program, Life Lab partnered with Community Alliance with Family Farmers, which helps growers adopt sustainable practices and connects eaters to local food. The organization has managed California's Farm to School program since 2001, and will also host one FoodCorps service member this year at its Humboldt chapter. "It was a really beautiful, natural partnership for what FoodCorps wants to do," said Life Lab Executive Director Don Burgett.
Service members spend a year at their school or organization, making nutrition part of the curriculum, creating a school garden, and bringing local food to the cafeteria.
While just 12 service members will be stationed in California for 2013, FoodCorps Program Director Cecily Upton said she hopes to add more in years to come. "The need is there, and it is a large and diverse state, so we want to take than into account," she said.
Upton noted that being connected to the national FoodCorps community will benefit food education in Santa Cruz County.
"It really starts to invigorate networks that already exist or helps create networks that didn't exist before," she said.
The co-host sites expect to receive an official Americorps contract by June, and projects will launch across California in August.