By: Dana Stevens, FoodCorps Service Member in Washington County, Maine.
Let me start by saying, no day is typical in FoodCorps. Every site is different, and every day at each site is unique. If you like variety in your life, and thrive learning on the go, you will hit the ground running; if this is not how you currently operate, you’ll definitely learn how!
That said, here is a amalgam of things you might do on a work day:
6:00am – Wake up, do yoga, go for a run or to the gym. (Practice what you preach!)
7:00am – Make a hearty breakfast from local foods you’ve purchased at the farmer’s market with your SNAP benefits: A fruit smoothie with fresh wild blueberries, or an egg scramble with spinach, goat cheese, and pepper pesto (yum!). Use the time you spend cooking for yourself to think about how the recipe might be adapted to work in a classroom setting (how many stations can it be divided into, what tools are needed, can 3rd graders be trusted to zest oranges?).
8:00am – Arrive at one of your local schools to prepare a healthy snack with the 5th grade – salad wraps perhaps? Put on some music and dance around the veggie-prepping table (people, this is no time for trying to be cool – let out your wild moves and I promise, the kids will follow suit and never forget what you did that day!).
9:00am – Pack up. Check in with the principal and other teachers on your way out to discuss events you’ll do the next week, and remind them about your garden committee meeting next Monday. Don’t run over any small ones as you leave; they might be local, but they aren’t really what we’re going for here.
10:00am – To the office. Spend an hour researching curriculum, networking, or brainstorming with your supervisor. Maybe work on writing grants for some of your garden projects. Come up with insanely awesome plans that will take much longer than your year of service to implement: ie, starting a “Farm ON School” program where schools lease their surrounding land to a young farmer in exchange for a certain amount of fresh product, grounds-keeping, and educational access. Get teary-eyed that you have the opportunity this year to be part of a program that will help you build skills you could use to make that crazy idea a possibility in the future.
11:00am – On the road again. If you are placed in a rural site like me, you’ll spend a lot of time traveling to schools and other events. Plan ahead and have some worthy gardening, cooking, or food policy podcasts on hand to make use of the time. Try to carpool and use that time for meetings. Warning: MWD’s (Meetings While Driving) are illegal in some states due to increased distraction. MWD’s should be undertaken only with a designated driver forbidden to listen to and/or participate in the discussion. The sensory-deprivation headgear provided by FoodCorps for rowdy classrooms should NOT be used by the designated driver
12:00pm – Arrive at your next school to support their Harvest Lunch. Often, you will appear as a giant colorful pea-pod, or carrot (contrary to popular belief, this may be a spontaneous occurrence over which you have no control). My advice; don’t hide in the bathroom agonizing over your new shape and colors. Use this to your advantage to start a conversation with kids about healthy eating! However, if your work has an impact, you may be in danger of being consumed alive due to the voracious vegetable appetite you have nurtured among the little folk.
1:00pm – Eat your bagged lunch on your way to school number 3. Stop and gather some apples on your way for the school cider pressings scheduled next week. At school 3, stop into the school cafeteria before the staff leave for the day. Check up on how local food deliveries have been going or offer to have a farmer you know deliver European plums for the Fresh Fruit and Vegetable snack program next week.
2:00pm – With your kids in school 3, sample the whole-wheat bread and garlic dipping oil you made the day before as you discuss the culinary and agricultural history of garlic. Traipse (this is imperative – no walking!) outside to nestle your garlic cloves in the garden after you’ve turned and amended the soil. Check to make sure each kid has dirt under the fingernails. Mulch and label!
3:00pm – Garden meeting. Since parents and teachers are often around at the end of the school day (and there are extra people floating around to keep an eye on their kids while you meet) this can be a great time to get together. Some school garden books recommend getting the committee together at someone’s house so “refreshments” can be served. Though many teachers (and you) might find this idea rather appealing after many hours with small children, I recommend completing business before pleasure. If your committees are anything like mine, everyone has wild enough ideas about their garden under normal circumstances.
4:00pm – Start home. It’s been a long day. You deserve some rest, a good meal, and perhaps a movie (Farmageddon, King Corn). Listen to The Splendid Table while you’re cooking dinner and your mouth will be watering before you’ve even put butter in the skillet.
6:00pm + Do some non-work related activities (this will be hard since you’ve been having so much fun working…I know it sounds corny, but it’s true!). Prepare for the next day. Spend some time logging your hours and describing that day’s activities on your timesheet. Make sure to do this every night. By the end of the week, you might not remember what kid in what school told you after one of your cooking classes: “I never knew science tasted so good!” That is definitely something you don’t want to forget.
FoodCorps is recruiting for next year! They are seeking up to 100 future leaders to address childhood obesity and food insecurity through their three-ingredient recipe for change: providing hands-on nutrition education, growing school gardens, and getting healthy local food into the school cafeteria. The deadline is March 25.