SAULT STE. MARIE (AP) - Eating healthy and supporting local farmers has become a push nationally. But it even has more importance in Chippewa County.
The county is one of seven sites in the state that are taking part in the national FoodCorps program. The program has teamed up with Michigan State University Extension.
What is even more exciting is that students from Malcolm High School in Sault Ste. Marie are taking an active part in a FoodCorps project, according to The Evening News of Sault Ste. Marie.
FoodCorps is a national service organization that places emerging leaders in schools across the country to teach kids about what healthy food is and where it comes from, build and tend school gardens, and bring high-quality local food into schools participating in the National School Lunch and/or School Breakfast Programs.
"This is the first year for the FoodCorps in the EUP," said Michelle Walk, MSUE educator in Chippewa County. "Their primary function is to educate."
FoodCorps also collaborates on the farm to schools program, and school gardens/hoop houses.
Walk and Kathryn O'Donnel, one of 125 national FoodCorps Service members, are working with Malcolm High School to get their project started.
"They will put together a plan and look for funding," Walk said. "The kids will help decide what to plant and grow. We are looking at connecting kids to a healthy environment. It is hands-on learning."
The lead teacher on the project at Malcolm is Clare Arbic.
"We are hoping to have a spring sale with vegetable starters. This will put production into the kids' hands," he said. "We hope to be operational in the spring. We are hoping to get the infrastructure weather-tight on Dec. 6. Once the structure is weather-tight and the plastic is on, we can get the kids inside."
He said the program is being done through the biology and ecology classes.
"I am excited for the kids. Mr. Arbic has stepped up and taken over the project," said Malcolm Principal Sandy Sawyer. "This is the best type of learning. It involves the classroom, community service and shows what types of jobs are out there."
O'Donnel said the program is working with the school and getting its hoop house started.
"It needs TLC," she said. "We are going to help get it renovated."
The FoodCorps service member said there are at least 40 students involved at Malcolm.
"There are 15 lessons taught and then they have to come up with a crop plan. They then can sell their food as fundraisers," O'Donnel said. "As the program progresses, we hope to do cross-curriculum. It is another tool to help students to connect to the curriculum."
USDA Under Secretary Kevin Concannon told The Evening News this is a way to promote healthy foods and give schools the skills to grow foods.
"Kids will tend to try healthy foods that are grown locally," he said. "Michigan has such a diverse agriculture mix."
The program helps schools purchase foods from local farmers for the school meals programs, as well as help start school gardens and educate students about food and agriculture.
Concannon said the USDA is happy to partner with FoodCorps. He said the program usually is run by agriculture graduates who sign on for a year or two.
"They are paid a stipend," he said. "They serve as an adjunct and work in the classrooms. So far the results have been impressive."
O'Donnel added more.
"We are a team of leaders that connect kids to food to grow up healthy," she said. "We are supporting the development or helping to get existing programs off the ground."
Concannon said last year, more than 67,000 students were reached nationally through the program with 125 leaders.
"We helped to build or revitalize school gardens," the undersecretary said. "Schools will play a major role in correcting America's eating habits."