FoodCorps, a nationwide team of AmeriCorps leaders who connect kids to real food and help them grow up healthy, has selected Nevada County as one of ten counties in California to benefit from the work of a Service Member for the second year in a row. FoodCorps Service Members are tasked with teaching hands-on lessons about food and nutrition, building and tending school gardens and teaching cooking lessons so kids can taste the fresh food they’ve grown, and working to change what’s on children’s lunch trays, giving them healthy food from local farms.
Elizabeth Lane brings a unique skill set and background to her role of Nevada County Food Service Member, a combination that won her an additional year of service here. Elizabeth feels strongly about getting fresh fruits and vegetables into the mouths of kids who need it most, and empowering them to ensure a regular supply of fresh food by growing their own food. She speaks from experience: “After my parents divorced, we went from living in a place where we could grow our own food to subsisting on boxed, processed foods and rotten vegetables that we could get donated. I would get home to an almost bare cupboard and find a box of mac and cheese with weevils in it. If we were lucky, my mom would have pot of homemade chicken soup in the refrigerator. Poor people used to ensure access to food by growing their own food. With the shift to food banks and donated food, we have lost that approach and knowledge. That is why I am doing this work – to get that knowledge circulating again.”
She was able to share her knowledge of growing food with students at Silver Springs school, who were wondering how they could improve the quality of food served in their school meals. Elizabeth started with an explanation of the National School Lunch program, and an overview of food systems (how the food we eat is grown and processed as it makes its way to our plates). She equipped students with information to make suggestions about what they would like to see in the cafeteria, and her class even prepared a snack (collard greens with bacon) for the whole school (and convinced the other kids to try it!). That snack not only won some new collard greens converts, it won over the food service staff member, chef Anita, who suggested collaborating with students on meal preparation for the next school year.
Were the long hours and figuring out new paths around unexpected road blocks worth it? “Absolutely,” says Elizabeth. “It’s worth it when I see the impact on the kids. On one farm field trip, I overheard a first grader say to her friend: ‘This is the best morning ever!’ He friend corrected her: ‘This is the best SCHOOL morning ever.’ But the first child countered with: ‘NO, this is the best morning ever including weekends.’ Connecting kids with food in such a positive way makes it all worth it.”