AmeriCorps Grantee Serves Up New Approach to Childhood Obesity

May 23,2015

WHITE HOUSE— The kindergarten students at John Burroughs Elementary School are staying an hour later on this day – not to brush up on their reading or math skills, but to taste kale – many for the first time.

“They see a lot of packaged food. If they eat vegetables, it’s not necessarily fresh. It’s not necessarily whole, so being able to bring in fresh vegetables, leafy greens, interesting fruit, is really a great experience for these students,” Davison said.

Since the start of the school year, FoodCorps member Karen Davison has spent each day in this Washington, D.C., classroom teaching five years where their food comes from and how they can make healthier choices on a daily basis.


In its fifth year, FoodCorps puts more than 180 young Americans into 500 schools across the United States. There, they focus on teaching students about nutrition, engaging them with hands-on activities, and improving their access to healthy foods whether in the cafeteria or the greater community.

FoodCorps Fellow Maddie Morales says the mission is particularly critical at a time when U.S. obesity rates in children have doubled in the last 30 years.

“The repercussion of having an unhealthy population is absolutely unacceptable and really scary in some ways that it affects our national security," Morales said. "It affects our ability to be a productive country and it is imperative that we change the system."

First lady's mission

It’s a message echoed by First Lady Michelle Obama, who chose FoodCorps cofounder Debra Eschmeyer to meet the "Let’s Move" initiative, aimed at reducing childhood obesity within a generation through healthy eating and exercise.

“For more than a decade, Deb has been leading the way in teaching kids about the importance of healthy eating,” the first lady said in a statement. “From classrooms and gardens to kitchens and farms, Deb has made learning about nutrition fun and accessible for kids across the country.”

At the April annual White House Kitchen Garden planting, Ms Obama marked the fifth anniversary of "Let’s Move."

“Let’s share our progress because we are going to come back and harvest in a few months," she said. "And I would love to see what other community gardens, schools, school gardens are doing out there to move forward on getting our kids to eat healthy.”

Let's move!

In this classroom, it's not just students were learning eating healthier.

“The kale especially, it was like, 'no thank you.' So she said, 'try it this way.' I was like, ‘oh, I like it.’ I went home and started making kale for myself,” Hammiel said.

Teacher Dionne Hammiel says the program has exposed her students to healthy eating habits they will hopefully keep with them for years to come.