The beginning of a new year is often time for self-reflection and resolutions: lose weight, eat better, and spend more time with your family. But what about considering a larger commitment dedicated to service? Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. once said,
"Life's most persistent and urgent question is: 'What are you doing for others?'"
On this National Day of Service, the inspirational words of the legendary leader of the civil rights movement continue to spur our desire to make an impact in our community, in our country.
Last week, FoodCorps, a national service organization that addresses childhood obesity and food insecurity in underserved communities, opened applications for its second annual class of service members. This is a unique opportunity to do something, every day, that benefits thousands of others. To date, FoodCorps has reached over 28,000 kids, built or revitalized 137 school gardens, and generated over 4,000 lbs of fresh produce.
FoodCorps seeks up to 100 men and women with a passion for serving their country as AmeriCorps service members by building healthy communities in 12 states around the country. The selected emerging leaders will dedicate one year of full-time public service in school food systems -- expanding hands-on nutrition education programs, building and tending school gardens, and sourcing fresh, healthy, local food for school cafeterias.
In its first year, FoodCorps gained national attention by attracting over 1,200 applicants for 50 positions, and by providing an innovative grassroots, scalable approach to solving our national health crises. With one in four U.S. children struggling with hunger and one in three obese or overweight, FoodCorps addresses the root cause of both: access to healthy food.
MLK recognized the importance of the right to knowledge, engagement, and access to healthy food. His eloquent words are engraved in the new memorial honoring his life's efforts:
"I have the audacity to believe that peoples everywhere can have three meals a day for their bodies, education and culture for their minds, and dignity, equality and freedom for their spirits."
When FoodCorps asked its first class of service members what they believe in, the influence of MLK was reflected in their statements:
I believe education is power.
I believe that healthy food leads to a healthy world.
I believe growing our own food will set us free.
I believe in the power of the potluck.
To honor MLK's vision of a "beloved community" and to help harness the power of the potluck, FoodCorps service members participated in America Sunday Supper gatherings organized by Points of Light.
Personally, I will be in Mississippi, reflecting on the struggles of yesterday, today, and tomorrow while visiting our service members, who I hope Dr. King would have been proud of for their dedication to service for healthier kids.
So let's all heed the challenge from the man and the mission we are honoring today:
"Make a career of humanity. Commit yourself to the noble struggle for equal rights. You will make a greater person of yourself, a greater nation of your country, and a finer world to live in."
Follow Debra Eschmeyer on Twitter: www.twitter.com/foodcorps