These were some of the only words my caseworker said to me during my intake at the Illinois Department of Human Services. I could hardly hide my disgust as he revealed a smile and asked me to fork over my stack of papers. His dry, albeit offensive brand of humor was especially jarring after the nearly 2 hours I spent standing in lines and waiting to hear my name called.
I was interviewing as part of my application for food stamps (now called the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, or “SNAP”). It had been a rough morning of long lines, crying babies, and grumpy staff (picture the DMV on a particularly bad day), but as an AmeriCorps*National Direct volunteer, I was mostly unfazed by the sluggish bureaucratic process. I spent my days running a non-profit community resource center on the North Side of Chicago where I held similar responsibilities to those of my caseworker, so I tried to empathize to his overworked, underpaid demeanor. With a brusque “You qualify,” he approved my application and sent me on my merry way. I was relieved to have a food budget.
“Jews for social justice is where I am coming from. Equal rights and equal access to the bounty of the earth is foundational,” Nora Saks said while explaining why she is a FoodCorps service member. FoodCorps is a new national service organization (funded by AmeriCorps and others) building school gardens and establishing “Farm to School” programs to address childhood obesity and food-related disease.
Fifty individuals in their 20’s and 30’s were chosen from over 1,200 applicants to serve in 2010-2011, FoodCorp’s pilot year. Among them are a number of young Jews, including Saks. She, as well as Leah Chapman, Emily Ritchie, Sarah Rubin and Erin Taylor, shared with the Jew and the Carrot why they are excited to work with schools in limited-resources communities with high obesity rates. All of them will be working with partnering local organizations to teach kids about healthy nutrition, build and work to sustain school gardens, and help school lunch programs procure healthy food from local farms.