A note about the author: Nathan Spalding is the Iowa FoodCorps Food Program Coordinator.
It’s that much-anticipated time of year when teachers pack up their colorfully adorned classrooms and students clean out their lockers before setting off into the summer sun. But as the school year comes to close, communities are gearing up for a summer of continued learning and summer meals. In Iowa, 10 FoodCorps service members are joining summer schools, meal sites, and day camps to deliver hands-on farm to summer programming.
What is FoodCorps?
FoodCorps is a nonprofit organization connecting kids to healthy food in schools, so they can lead healthier lives and reach their full potential. At the heart of our program are our 240 AmeriCorps leaders who deliver programming in high-need schools around the country. In Iowa, we’re serving 20 schools in Davenport, Cedar Rapids, Oelwein, Des Moines, Ottumwa, Postville, and Waterloo. In these communities, service members serve up change through:
Hands-on Lessons - They teach cooking, gardening and tasting since kids love foods they have grown and prepared themselves.
Healthy School Meals - They create a cafeteria that steers students towards the healthiest options and gets them excited to try new healthy foods.
A Schoolwide Culture of Health - They help the whole school community— everything from the teachers to the hallways to the bake sales—celebrate healthy food.
Although most of this programming is delivered during the school day, service doesn’t stop when summer break begins. Rather, Iowa service members are slathering on the sun screen and packing up the hand trowels for a summer of hands-on activities celebrating fresh, local food. This summer service members are joining a state-wide effort to elevate one local vegetable in particular: sugar snap peas!
Snap for Snap Peas - celebrating local food to keep kids engaged and well-fed
This year, the second-annual Iowa Farm to Summer Campaign is “Snap for Snap Peas," sponsored by Iowa State University Extension and Outreach - FFED Program, the Iowa Department of Agriculture and Land Stewardship, the Iowa Department of Education, and FoodCorps Iowa.
Snap for Snap Peas is a statewide campaign to promote summer meal sites and farmers by celebrating local sugar snap peas as the sweetest vegetable of the summer. With a collective focus on this easy-to-grow, flavorful, local veggie, the campaign hopes to increase participation and retention of children at Iowa summer meal sites. Around the state, summer meal site sponsors, community partners, local food advocates, farmers, volunteers, and teachers are developing promotional plans that’ll get kids saying “Oh snap!"
FoodCorps service members are joining in on the celebrations by conducting local snap pea taste tests, growing snap peas with students, teaching cooking lessons featuring local snap peas, and more. Claire Anderson, service member with Postville Community Schools, will be encouraging students to "try things" by teaching kids to grow snap peas and develop tasty snap pea recipes. Students will then be eager to try the local snap peas that Laurie Smith, Food Service Director, will be cooking up for summer lunches. In Des Moines, service members Allie Lansman and Emma Davis will be delivering similar programming to support Des Moines Public Schools Chef Chad Taylor who will feature local snap peas every Friday for summer lunches.
If it sounds like a lot of hubbub for the humble snap pea, then you’re getting the right impression. Snap for Snap Pea celebrations are aligning efforts of organizations around the state - organizations like FoodCorps - to keep kids engaged during summer, to bolster participation in summer meal sites, and to put some extra dollars in the pockets of local farmers. By the time fall rolls around and students filter back into school halls, we hope we’re still hearing “Oh Snap!”