Celebrity Chef - FoodCorps Michigan - Annie's Homegrown
Celebrity Chef – FoodCorps Michigan

Celebrity Chef – FoodCorps Michigan

FoodCorps service will provide you with the necessary training and experience to emerge as a star television cooking personality.

Lights, camera, action! All eyes were on my knife, my stockpot, and me. I became a star, instructing and entertaining, captivating my viewers and TV studio audience with a magic spell of aroma and the anticipation of amazing tastes. Well . . . not exactly. Instead of a celebrity chef  there was me; instead of a live studio audience there was a classroom of 5th grade students; and instead of a giant video machine beaming me out to the masses… there was my devout class volunteer, Mrs. Bonnie, with her pocket-sized digital camera.

But the students were locked into the experience, frantically waving hands to volunteer and exclaiming their sensory observations to neighboring students. The excitement in the room was tangible, in a bigger-than-normal kind of way. During my FoodCorps service with the Michigan Land Use Institute in Traverse City, Michigan, inspiring experiences like these became a new “normal” and turned me into someone else, for good.

I owe a tremendous gratitude to my parents for providing an essential food foundation. Night after night, they brought food to our table and placed a priority on coming together as a family to connect with one another while sharing dinner. This taught me the necessity of gathering around food in a meaningful way, especially one that slows down the pace of life, and to be fed, really fed and fully cared for by more than just calories and nutrition consumed.

Aside from that early foundation, though, my own exploration of the magic and science that happens in the kitchen actually began only recently. I joined FoodCorps as a service member two years ago with the hope of building upon an inspiring year of AmeriCorps VISTA service and with the desire to be more involved in the movement to connect people meaningfully to their food. At that time, I knew little about school food and couldn’t even recall much about my own interactions with the nameless (to me) men and women who must have helped bring food to my school lunch line as a kid. FoodCorps gave me an opportunity to immerse myself fully into all aspects school lunch and to gain a better understanding of this food system (and the individuals within it) that provides extremely essential meals for millions of students.

After three years with FoodCorps—first as a service member and now as the Michigan fellow— I have shared countless experiences and built many strong relationships with students and staff. I will not soon forget donning a hairnet and beardnet (the same thing, just upside down on your face) for the first time at Platte River Elementary, in order to shadow in a school kitchen. I immersed myself in the busy dance of the school lunch service with kitchen staff at Interlochen elementary, which helped me to discover the challenges and joys of school food. I learned a tremendous amount through casual conversations that sprung up out of collaborative activities with the kitchen team. We partnered to offer students creative recipes and activities with fruits and vegetables, in order to engage them in experiencing healthy foods. On top of these treasured moments and shared successes, my immersive school lunch service in FoodCorps gave me a behind-the-counter view that helped me to witness very real happiness exchanged between students and school cooks.

While I do not see school lunch as a perfect system, I have a strong hope that a better one can surely be built upon the love and care that is at its foundation in our school kitchens.

In part due to my experiences in FoodCorps, I have decided to enroll as a culinary student at Northwestern Michigan College . I’m excited to pursue a path towards continuing to make a difference in school food and food education. From the fulfillment that I experienced as a service member, I know that I could be happy for a long, long time teaching students and families fun and easy ways of cooking healthy foods. I am also considering becoming a school food service director in order to apply myself in creating new practices and models for real food in school lunch.

No matter where my path leads, I plan to remain informed and involved as an advocate for fresh, healthy, and local foods in schools.

FoodCorps has provided me a community of friendship and support that continues to give me the confidence to pursue a career in real food education. Service members across the nation year after year are stepping up to the front of classes in the 15 states where FoodCorps serves and earning affectionate and cherished titles like “Miss Celery,” “Apple Teacher,” “Greg the Gardener.”

In my own service as “Carrot Man,” I found passion and purpose sharing knowledge, health, and happiness with students by building their connections to food, their respect for all the people who bring food to their table day after day, and their understanding the labor and love added along the way. You can contribute in too by becoming a service member, supporter, partner or friend of FoodCorps. You also have the potential to become a real star who gives a student the opportunity to keep discovering, eating and loving healthy and delicious food.

 By Daniel Marbury, FoodCorps Fellow, Michigan.

Annie’s + FoodCorps

FoodCorps is a nationwide team of passionate leaders who work to connect kids to real food. As a “Seed Funder,” Annie’s is enabling FoodCorps Fellows to support, guide, and mentor service members who then go out 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 public school cafeterias.