A $30,000 grant from Connecticut Community Foundation to the Connecticut affiliate of FoodCorps, a national organization that connects kids to healthy foods, will give schoolchildren in four Waterbury and Naugatuck schools hands-on lessons in healthy eating in order to promote their preferences for fruits and vegetables—and improve overall nutrition and wellness.  The award is among 51 new grants totaling $366,600 made by the Foundation in their April grant round to nonprofit organizations serving communities in Greater Waterbury and the Litchfield Hills.

With the new grant funding, FoodCorps will embed trained AmeriCorps service members in elementary schools (Carrington, Reed, Duggan and Gilmartin in Waterbury; Western in Naugatuck) where they will lead fun activities—in collaboration with the school nurses, cafeteria workers and teachers—that engage students in healthy eating.

The service members may co-teach health or science lessons, help build a school garden, engage parents in cooking nights, or model eating healthy foods in the cafeteria while running games like “lucky tray day” when a sticker underneath a tray of healthy food eaten by a student earns them a spot on the Vegetable Wall of Fame. Other types of activities will also guide kids toward trying new foods and even give them a voice in determining what is on the school menus.

Dawn Crayco, Connecticut program director for FoodCorps, said, “We’re thrilled to build on our partnership with Naugatuck Public Schools and increase our presence in Waterbury Public Schools next school year. With support from the Connecticut Community Foundation, we will be directly contributing to district and school goals for health and wellness, ensuring that more students are excited to learn about and eat healthy food.”

According to Crayco, school is where kids spend most of their time—often eating two or three meals per day there—and FoodCorps has determined that schools (kindergarten through grade 8) are where they can have the most impact on improving healthy eating.

Ultimately, FoodCorps aims to assist schools with extending healthy eating beyond the cafeteria.

“The kids really respond to our FoodCorps leaders who show up with really colorful green shirts and take them out to the garden or teach them about foods that help them grow,” Crayco said.

She added, “Food can be a connector to all things,” including increasing parent engagement in schools. “We’re bringing in parents and bringing in teachers or bringing in community organizations to talk about what a healthy school food environment looks like to them. And then the FoodCorps service member supports them in moving people towards taking action on the things they want for their school.”

Julie Loughran, president and CEO of Connecticut Community Foundation, said, “Learning starts with healthy kids, and FoodCorps is filling a critical gap in creating healthy food environments for kids. We applaud the visionary administrators and teachers who are aiding FoodCorps in their fresh approaches to healthy eating in schools (and beyond!), and we are so grateful to our donors who made this grant possible.”

The Foundation awarded 51 new grants in April. View them under the “April 2018” tabs.

Photo courtesy of FoodCorps