Helping Grow Healthy Kids: ACHRI Delta Garden Study Named a FoodCorps Host Site as Part of 10-State Launch

Helping Grow Healthy Kids: ACHRI Delta Garden Study Named a FoodCorps Host Site as Part of 10-State Launch

High-caliber organizations with demonstrated experience implementing farm-to-school and school garden programs selected as inaugural host sites for 2011

LITTLE ROCK, AR. (Dec. 6, 2010) – FoodCorps, a new national AmeriCorps school garden and farm-to-school service program, has named the Arkansas Children’s Hospital Research Institute (ACHRI) Delta Garden Study as one of 10 institutions it will collaborate with to launch the initiative in 2011. The ACHRI Delta Garden Study was chosen to participate from a pool of more than 100 applicants across the nation.

FoodCorps will serve vulnerable children, with goals of improving access to healthy, affordable food and training young leaders for careers in food and agriculture.

When FoodCorps fires up in 2011, it will create jobs for Arkansans working in rural communities where the ACHRI Delta Garden Study will organize school gardens, according to Judith Weber, PhD, RD, the Delta Garden Study’s principal investigator. She also is director of the Childhood Obesity Prevention Research Team located in the Center for Applied Research and Evaluation (CARE) Section of the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences (UAMS) College of Medicine Department of Pediatrics.

"What’s exciting is that our selection as a FoodCorps collaborator means new money and new jobs in childhood obesity prevention and farm-to-school initiatives for this state," Weber said. "We competed with big-name institutions for this program, and it shows that Arkansas is at the forefront of innovative child health and nutrition programs."

In the spirit of service for healthier kids, FoodCorps will put 82 members on the ground in 10 states to work 139,400 hours during the 2011-2012 school year. Utilizing the public service model of AmeriCorps, FoodCorps leverages federal funds to place young adults in high-need communities, with the mission of improving children’s education about, and access to, healthy food.

As a host site, the ACHRI Delta Garden Study will supervise the FoodCorps service members in Arkansas, creating six new jobs in the central and Delta regions of the state in 2011, with the potential to grow more jobs in subsequent years.

ACHRI is currently conducting the pilot phase of the $2 million USDA-funded Delta Garden Study. A cooperative agreement between ACHRI and the USDA Agricultural Research Service’s Delta Obesity Prevention Research Unit, the project will build one-acre gardens on the campuses of 10 Arkansas schools over the next three years. The study is designed to show how building new gardens — complete with greenhouses, budding crops and composting areas — can help adolescents cultivate green thumbs, log more physical activity, eat healthier and connect with their schools.

Arkansas Surgeon General, Joe Thompson, MD, congratulated the ACHRI Delta Garden Study for being selected to participate in the FoodCorps program. "Arkansas is at the epicenter of the national movement to reverse the childhood obesity epidemic," he said. " The ACHRI Delta Garden Study is a shining example of the great work that is being done by Arkansans to educate our children about where food comes from and to lead the nation in reversing the childhood obesity epidemic."

FoodCorps service members will build and tend school gardens, conduct nutrition education, and increase the quality of the food served in the lunchroom. FoodCorps also aims to grow the next generation of farmers and food systems professionals through hands-on experience.

Service members will receive training and support from the FoodCorps national office, yet daily work will be directed by high-impact organizations working in their home communities. In a competitive selection process, the FoodCorps planning team reviewed 108 host site proposals submitted from 39 states and the District of Columbia. The proposals requested a combined 512 service members and offered partnerships with 1,240 groups. The 10 selected host sites all have proven records of success in improving the quality of school food, capacity to grow with FoodCorps across their region and compelling community need that service members will readily address.

"These organizations all demonstrated a clear commitment to combating childhood obesity through hands-on farm-to-school and school garden programs," said Debra Eschmeyer, a FoodCorps founder. "Essentially a domestic Peace Corps, FoodCorps is now poised for a fruitful first year."

The 2011-2012 FoodCorps host sites include:

Arkansas: The Delta Garden Study at the Arkansas Children’s Hospital Research Institute
Arizona: Johns Hopkins Center for American Indian Health
Iowa: National Center for Appropriate Technology
Massachusetts: The Food Project
Maine: University of Maine Cooperative Extension
Michigan: C.S. Mott Group at Michigan State University
Mississippi: Mississippi Roadmap to Health Equity
North Carolina: North Carolina State University 4-H
New Mexico: Office of Community Learning and Public Service at the University of New Mexico
Oregon: Oregon Department of Agriculture

As a pioneer in applying the proven model of national service to the widening epidemic of childhood obesity, FoodCorps and the 10 chosen host sites are poised to improve the wellbeing of thousands of children in their first year and millions more over the next decade.

For more information on FoodCorps and how to participate in the program, visit www.Food-Corps.org .

FoodCorps is a national AmeriCorps program that focuses on service in rural, urban, and suburban school food systems that have children challenged with high rates of obesity and limited access to healthy foods. Service members will build and tend school gardens, conduct hands-on nutrition education experiences, and facilitate Farm to School programming that brings high quality local food into public schools. The program will serve vulnerable children, improving access to healthy, affordable school meals, and train a cadre of leaders for careers in food and agriculture. FoodCorps, a New York based nonprofit organization, was developed with funding from AmeriCorps and the WK Kellogg Foundation, in partnership with Occidental College, the National Farm to School Network, Slow Food USA, The National Center for Appropriate Technology, and Wicked Delicate, as part of an open planning process that engaged thousands of stakeholders from around the country. www.food-corps.org

Arkansas Children’s Hospital is the only pediatric medical center in Arkansas and one of the largest in the United States serving children. The campus spans 28 city blocks and houses 316 beds, a staff of approximately 500 physicians, 80 residents in pediatrics and pediatric specialties and more than 4,000 employees. The private, nonprofit healthcare facility boasts an internationally renowned reputation for medical breakthroughs and intensive treatments, unique surgical procedures and forward-thinking medical research - all dedicated to fulfilling our mission of enhancing, sustaining and restoring children's health and development. ACH recently ranked No. 85 on FORTUNE 100 Best Companies to Work For®. For more information, visit www.archildrens.org .

ACHRI provides a research environment on the ACH campus to meet the needs of the UAMS faculty. Research scientists at ACHRI conduct clinical, basic science, and health services research for the purpose of treating illnesses, preventing disease and improving the health of children everywhere.

UAMS is the state’s only comprehensive academic health center, with colleges of Medicine, Nursing, Pharmacy, Health Related Professions and Public Health; a graduate school; a 540,000-square-foot hospital; a statewide network of regional centers; and six institutes: the Winthrop P. Rockefeller Cancer Institute, the Jackson T. Stephens Spine & Neurosciences Institute, the Myeloma Institute for Research and Therapy, the Harvey & Bernice Jones Eye Institute, the Psychiatric Research Institute and the Donald W. Reynolds Institute on Aging. It is the state’s only Level 1 trauma center. UAMS has 2,836 students and 761 medical residents. It is the state’s largest public employer with more than 10,000 employees, including nearly 1,150 physicians who provide medical care to patients at UAMS, Arkansas Children’s Hospital, the VA Medical Center and UAMS’ Area Health Education Centers throughout the state. Visit www.uams.edu or www.uamshealth.com .

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