Food Corps for America?
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 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?

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8 Responses to “Food Corps for America?”

  1. Adam Says:

    Yes! A Farm Corps for Obama’s presidency just as we had CCC for Roosevelt’s. It could be configured to place volunteers as farm crews on farms that need help converting to organic (which often means more manual tasks like weeding), as educators in school teaching ecological curriculum, and as food emergency providers that ramp up the network of direct farm-to-need programs.

    Volunteers would not only provide agricultural and social service, but by changing the food distribution system from the inside out, learn principles of green economics, one that accounts for a total impact on the earth and human populations.

    $5000/yr minimum to put towards student loans or future tuition. As long as we’re dreaming, the money would be put up by corporate food distributors and manufacturers as restitution for deceitfully marketing to a generation of children, 1 in 3 of which who will be obese, as a consequence of consuming their products.

  2. lisa Says:

    This is an excellent idea, which would coincide with Obama’s America Serves idea. He is calling on all American youths to serve, and college students who do 100 hours of community service a year would recieve a $4000 tax credit on college or university. This way we can match farm volunteer work with his already proposed plan.

    As far as the farming aspect, it is time once again for the nation to turn back to Victory Gardens and community plots. By providing inexpensive or free resources, such as seeds and gardening tools, it would make it even more lucrative for people to grown their own food. Pollan’s idea is excellent too; let’s create financial supports people who want to provide healthy food, whether growing, cooking, or supplying it. Maybe it’s time for a junk food tax to support all of these programs.

  3. Ketzirah Carly Says:

    Why dream of getting that moment in the elevator. Go to and tell him yourself. Our next president has already put in place the ability for people to share their vision for the country with his administration.

    My vision was also food related, but smaller in scale. I just want to see the White House lawn turned into a CSA that supports the WH kitchen!

  4. Lianna Says:

    I am part of a team of 5 ‘FoodCorps’ volunteers working with Farm to Cafeteria programs in Montana. Part of AmeriCorps, we are full-time volunteers working to purchase more locally-grown food in order to strengthen Montana’s agricultural economy and form relationships with those who grow our food.

    You can go to http://www.growmontana.ncat.or....._faq08.php to learn more about the program!

  5. Christina Says:

    This sounds great. I am part of a Coalition in Santa Fe, NM that just proposed a program almost exactly like this to AmeriCorps – including working in schools, in the community at food-related NGOs, developing urban agriculture, and a young farmers corps to support area farms. Let’s hope it get selected so we can help build a model to be replicated across the country.

  6. Channah Says:

    You don’t need the president for this. They already have opportunities to volunteer on organic farms. See

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