Growing the Next Generation of Foodies, Farmers and Healthy Communities

 

Amelia Pedini

 

If you live in Gallup, you might know him simply as “the baker,” or if you’re a student in Gallup’s elementary schools, you probably know him as that friendly “smoothie guy.” Joshua Kanter brought his baking skills all the way from Wilton, Conn. to New Mexico with a mission to share the joys of growing and eating good, wholesome food.

 

Now in his second term as a FoodCorps service member, Kanter teaches in school gardens and organizes monthly family food nights where children invite their parents to sit down for an evening of “slow food.” Every Friday he invites anyone in the community to join him in an evening of bread making with easily identifiable ingredients. “I’ve brought the hands that have shaped thousands of bâtards, demi-baguettes and boules,” says Kanter. “It’s bread foreign to this land, but it’s taken hold in many homes here. It’s an expression of my outlook on food: fresh, real, slow, loved, and above all, delicious. And it sparks conversation. People ask about my bread, ‘What’s so special?’ I tell them about my gardens and this whole thing I’ve called Crumby Bread Company, which is actually a fundraiser.”

 

Kanter sells his bread at Saturday markets and the local co-op in order to raise funds for his service program. Last year, his sales supported a breakfast smoothie project at two elementary schools. Using his trusty Vitamix blender, he introduced the delights of eating plenty of fresh fruit every day by selling smoothies for a dollar each. Aside from being a massive hit with the students, it also served as a delicious and nutritious way to fund student field trips.

 

This year we brought FoodPlay, a traveling theater troop, to perform at one of our schools,” Kanter beams. “And we bought $120 worth of garlic seed for planting at a new community educational farm outside of town, where the kids do all the planting. Next year it (the garlic) will enter school cafeterias, CSA (Community Supported Agriculture Program) shares, market shelves, and maybe even your cast- iron skillet. It’s all way too much fun to get paid for.”

 

FoodCorps sponsors a nationwide team that currently includes 80 service members and 12 Fellows in 12 states. The organization provides real-life experiences for young adults seeking to live their values through addressing some of our country’s most pressing needs. They come from all over the nation and are dedicated wholehearted believers in the power of real, healthy food for all. The service members dedicate an entire year of service, providing gardening, cooking and nutritional education to youth and communities in underserved areas. They receive a yearly $15,000 stipend (not including room and board), an amount that puts them at about the same economic living standard as the low-income communities they work with.

 

Kendal Chavez, who works at Kirtland Elementary in Albuquerque, says, “Despite the hurdles and uncertainties of traveling an unbeaten path, connection, awareness and endless learning are at every corner. This is why I serve for FoodCorps New Mexico.”

 

The nonprofit builds collaborative networks with local nonprofits and schools, and hopes to continue to expand across the country. In NM, FoodCorps is partnered with the Santa Fe-based Farm to Table and the NM Acequia Association; La Plazita Institute, Kirtland Elementary and UNM’s Community Engagement Center in Albuquerque; Connections, Inc. in Gallup; La Semilla Food Center in Anthony; and the Peñasco School District.

 

To learn more, visit www.foodcorps.org. To keep up to date with their local efforts, visit Facebook at FoodCorps New Mexico.

 

 

Amelia Pedini joined Farm to Table in August 2012 as the NM Food Corps Fellow. She supports all Food Corps service members throughout NM, helps to identify effective initiatives for replication elsewhere, and supports the efforts of Food Corps co-host sites, FTT and the UNM Office of Community Learning and Public Service.