Citizen Leaders: The Six Founding Members of FoodCorps

FoodCorps is a nationwide network of volunteers combating our country’s childhood obesity epidemic by organizing and recruiting volunteers to develop and coordinate:

  • School nutrition programs that teach kids what healthy food is
  • School gardens that engage kids in learning about the food they eat and how to grow healthy produce
  • Farm to School programs that put locally grown foods in school lunches

The FoodCorps mission and organization emerged from hundreds of hours of conversations with the input of thousands of individuals in the many communities it now serves.

For their effort both in identifying and inviting the many voices that contributed to its formation, and in orchestrating the activities that led to the creation and launch of FoodCorps this year, I applaud the network’s six founding members who each brought their passion and their unique experience to the project. 

The renown American Anthropologist Margaret Meade observed, as a result of her prolonged and profound study of human beings and societies across the globe:

Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has.

Let me introduce to all of you these dedicated citizens leaders by way of their short bios that appear on the FoodCorps website.

Crissie McMullan pioneered a model for our work when she founded Montana FoodCorps in 2006. An initiative of the Grow Montana Coalition and the National Center for Appropriate Technology, the state-level VISTA program continues to thrive under her leadership today.

Cecily Upton worked to give young people a voice in the food and agriculture conversation as Director of Youth Programs at Slow Food USA. She facilitated school garden projects and initiated the Slow Food on Campus program before joining the staff of FoodCorps.

Debra Eschmeyer brought her background in farming and passion for school food to the National Farm to School Network and the Food and Community Fellowship program. A go-to expert among policymakers and the press, Debra now continues her work at FoodCorps.

Ian Cheney helped start the Yale Sustainable Food Project and co-created the Peabody-winning documentary King Corn and the mobile garden project Truck Farm. He contributed his unique skills to the team through his Brooklyn-based media company, Wicked Delicate.

 Jerusha Klemperer created high-impact communication and action campaigns in her post as Associate Director of National Programs at Slow Food USA. Her strategy and social media work fueled their initiatives Time for Lunch, Dig In and Farmarazzi.

Curt Ellis co-created the documentaries King Corn and Big River and served as a Food and Community Fellow with the Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy. In April 2009, he convened the group’s first meeting to discuss a national AmeriCorps initiative related to “Good Food.”

Citizen Leaders: All-Americans Hudson Taylor and Colin Joyner

Citizen leadership is:

Character and courage: men, women, young adults and teenagers acting and speaking with the courage of their character day in and day out, in private and public – at home, in school, at work, in their club, in church and temple, on a team, in a troop, in the support group, in the neighborhood.

Courage of character begins with their getting clear on who they are and how they want to be in the world, so they are or become the person they’d want to follow, and by extension the person others would want to follow.

Contribution to the community: men, women, young adults and teenagers applying the qualities of their character as they participate in or champion efforts to better their world and create great places for us all to live, work and play.

Hudson Taylor, an All-American wrestler and coach at Columbia University, has committed himself to eliminating homophobia from all levels of sports. His efforts have gained national and international recognition.

This is only about how we treat one another, how we speak to one another. It’s not about politics or religion or anything else. I just want to create a safe space for people.

Taylor created ATHLETE ALLY™, an online resource to encourage athletes, coaches, parents, fans and other members of the sports community to respect all individuals involved in sports, regardless of perceived or actual sexual-orientation or gender identity or expression. When you arrive at the website for the first time you’re presented with a pledge — ” I pledge to lead my athletic community to respect and welcome all persons, regardless of their perceived or actual sexual orientation, gender identity or gender expression” — and from there, you’re presented with other steps for action. Hudson says, “I created the Pledge so that we, as an athletic community, can take proactive steps to end homophobia and transphobia in sports. When we inspire entire teams and athletic departments to commit to a new standard of athletic integrity, we will change the environment in locker rooms and on playing fields.” 

Read the full article about Hudson Taylor in The Huffington Post, and hear him talk about his efforts in an MSNBC interview.

At Bowdoin College (the #6 ranked national liberal arts college), Colin Joyner is also attempting tearing down walls of homophobia in sports. Joyner, a three-time All-American tennis player and current men’s tennis coach, created Anything But Straight in Athletics (ABSA) with Kate Stern, Director of the school’s Resource Center for Sexual and Gender Diversity. The group’s aim is to help closeted athletes come out by dismantling homophobia in Bowdoin athletics. Joyner has expressed a great hope that more schools will build programs like his ABSA.

Read the full article about his efforts in OutSports.

Citizen Leader: Kyle Thiermann, 19-Year-Old Pro Surfer

Two years ago, Kyle Thiermann, a 19 year old pro surfer living in Santa Cruz, CA began efforts to fight the construction of a coal burning plant half a hemisphere away. Kyle believed he could make a difference, and he took it upon himself to develop a strategy to make that difference. He insisted,
“People think things are impossible because they just don’t believe. I think the most important thing is to believe it is possible.”

Two years ago, Kyle Thiermann, a 19 year old pro surfer living in Santa Cruz, CA began efforts to fight the construction of a coal burning plant half a hemisphere away. He learned that the plant, to be built on the central coast of Chile, would contribute contaminates into the air and infiltrate the fresh and oceans waters of the surrounding fishing community with toxins that threatened the livelihoods of thousands – thousands with no political power to stop the project. Kyle believed he could make a difference, and he took it upon himself to develop a strategy to make that difference. He insisted,

People think things are impossible because they just don’t believe. I think the most important thing is to believe it is possible.

As Good Times Santa Cruz reported, instead of trying to tell the coal company thousands of miles away not to build the coal plant, Kyle spearheaded an effort in Santa Cruz to have local residents withdraw their money from a huge national bank funding the project and instead deposit their money in community banks and as a result allow that money to be available to fund local projects. He had done his homework. Kyle knew that if you move $100 (to a local bank), you’re giving them about $1000 dollars’ worth of lending power now to fund community projects. We can really make our local economies a lot more resilient by using this strategy.

He got the word out through a video he create and posted on YouTube: claimyourchange

As for the results, Kyle reported in an interview appearing in the drift surfing blog a few months after the release of his video: just from the video coming out, I’ve documented $400,000 dollars coming out of centralized banks like Bank of America and into community banks – which is $4,000,000 worth of lending power for the bank. There’s a surf company called Livity Outernational who have committed to moving millions out of out of B of A into San Francisco’s New Resource Bank as a result of it as well. They’re one of my sponsors and they’re really conscious. All the rest of my sponsors like Patagonia and Sector 9, they’re all supportive of the project.

And that was just a start. Now, two years later, he can document $430 million that has been withdrawn from Bank of America and deposited in local community banks around the country. Watch Kyle talk about this initiative and its success.

Kyle has since turned his efforts to a campaign (supported by a 4-minute video) to educate others and enlist their support in eliminating the use of single-use plastic bottles and bags. Again, a global problem, but one that this young man believes it is possible for him to do something about.

Kyle Thiermann is a young adult who acts and speaks with courage and authenticity. He seems to be clear about what matters to him and how he wants to be and act in the world. He applies the qualities of his character to participate in and champion efforts to better his world and create great places for us all to live, work and play.

Kyle is the quintessential model of a Citizen Leader.

Now to you.

What cause do you believe in strongly?

Why do you care about this cause?

What can you do to demonstrate to yourself and to others that you believe you can make a positive contribution to the cause?

Begin it now!