If Anna Lappe (of the Small Planet Institute) had one minute in an elevator with Barack Obama she’d ask him to start a Food Corps, modeled after the Peace Corps to “support a generation of young people to dedicate a year or two of their lives to engage with ending needless hunger in a country of plenty and the squandering of fossil fuels, water, soil and other precious resources through chemical agriculture.”
The idea is apparently compelling to a lot of food movement luminaries. In Grist’s article, linked above, where experts in the field (ahem) are asked to give their ideal one-minute speech to the president-elect, four others mentioned a government organized youth movement in agriculture.
Bonnie Azab Powell of Ethicurean.com and Edible San Fransisco wants to start a “Farm for America job corps program, like Teach for America” that would farm unused Federal Land. She tells Grist that the program would support “people who want to learn how to farm, with apprenticeship match-ups, salary support, and low-interest loans” with produce going to school cafeterias and food banks.
Ann Cooper, author and director of nutrition services for the Berkeley Unified School District and Kate Adamick, director of The s’Cool Food Initiative second Michael Pollan in their suggestion for how to staff those school cafeterias: give student loan assistance to culinary students who follow graduation with two years in the trenches.
The idea is certainly not unprecedented. Apart from current programs like Peace Corps, Teach for America, we can think back to the WPA, or Works Progress Administration during Roosevelt’s New Deal. During the New Deal, Civilian Conservation Corps members mapped out the national soil survey, an enormously useful tool for farmers and landowners. In 1918, at the end of world war one, the New York Times published this article on an army of 1,500,000 schoolchildren tilling 60,000 acres of”unproductive home and vacant land”. The Tims called them the “United States School Garden Army,” and while we might not be so into the military rhetoric any longer, the idea of a million and a half school kids turning lawns into gardens sounds like victory to me.
So what do you think, JCarrot readers? How about a Farm Corps? What would it look like, what would it’s purpose be? What kinds of incentives would young people need to join up, and how would a Farm Corps translate into food security for the nation’s hungry?