Curt Ellis’s brainchild FoodCorps deploys volunteers to teach schoolchildren about healthy food choices, getting them involved in every step of the process from cultivating the garden to cooking the food.
“I believe every child deserves to know what healthy food is and where it comes from, deserves a chance to get their hands in the dirt, and grow and cook good food themselves.”
The soaring rates of childhood obesity — having tripled in the past 30 years, according to the Centers for Disease Control — are already creating serious consequences, both for the individuals in terms of higher risk of obesity-related diseases, and for the country as taxpayers shoulder a greater burden of associated medical costs. Curt Ellis, the filmmaker behind King Corn and Truck Farm, believes that a big part of that problem could be the general consensus surrounding food. He says, “We’ve made a lot of assumptions about food in our country: that kids don’t like to eat vegetables; that school food doesn’t need to taste great; that food is fuel, and where it comes from isn’t important.” He feels these ideas are “dead wrong” and play a detrimental role in summoning innovation. “Small preconceptions are a big part of what’s keeping us from having a vibrant, sustainable, healthful national diet,” he says.
Curt’s solution is simple. He believes that, “unlike a lot of big challenges, this one has a solution that’s within reach: we just need to get good food to kids and get them outside for some exercise.” And that’s exactly what his organization does. In coordination with Americorps, FoodCorps recruits service members for a year-long commitment to work with schoolchildren. The students work hard to grow their gardens and benefit from both the physical activity and the bounty of fruits and vegetables. The efforts have provided tremendous payoffs. Only a year and a half after their 2010 launch, their website boasts reaching over 42,000 students, installing 323 garden projects, and donating 7,465 pounds of garden produce. Plus, the children are excited to eat the fruits of their labors. The service member testimonials abound with the heartfelt delight from students, such as this one, “This tomato tastes like sunshine!”
The message is clear; Curt believes everyone “deserves to have reliable access to healthy, high-quality food every day. What could be more simple than that, or more important?” With obesity problems projected to affect 42 percent of the U.S. population by 2030, organizations like FoodCorps may be key in keeping it in check. Curt affirms that it’s a good time to be a farmer, “People are fired up about food and farming right now.