I can’t believe my second and final service term is winding down. I have been partnering with the Northeast Iowa Food and Fitness Initiative (FFI) for about seven years now in both my personal and professional life. I have especially been able to enhance my experience and relationship with FFI through my experience as an Early Childhood FoodCorps service member. I have gained countless life-long relationships and have learned valuable lessons and skills. I had the really unique opportunity to be the first Early Childhood specific service member and it has been an extremely rewarding and beneficial experience.
It is a totally different experience in working with Head Start settings and 4-5 year olds. They have always shared my enthusiastic energy and willingness to learn about new foods and taste them too! I was a little nervous at the beginning of my first service term of how I would be able to get them to the level of tasting healthy local foods willingly and how I would organize lessons that would foster a positive learning space for all students. I didn’t have much teaching experience, but I did have experience and passion working with kids and in health and wellness.
The kids really made it easy, and I kept things simple. I tried to connect common core themes like science, technology, engineering, art, and math (STEAM) to farm to school topics and models. I brought my enthusiastic energy and that transferred on to the kids! It’s been really promising to see the Head Start teachers and staff grab hold of the idea of Farm to School and continue to practice it on their own when I was only able to visit their classrooms once or twice a month.
Some of my favorite experiences in the Head Start classrooms have been all of the hugs and beautiful greetings that I receive from my students. I love being able to experience trying new foods with them for the first time and getting messy in dirt or with cooking. They don’t hold back in their expressions and observations. I always say as much as they have learned from me, I have learned so much from them too. They are brave, expressive, and meaningful and they are the future! Through my experience teaching Early Childhood, I have definitely been able to witness the importance of exposing young children to farm to school and how that becomes reflective and beneficial in the future of their well-being and willingness to try new foods and nourish their bodies.