Luther College’s Center for Sustainable Communities welcomes six new members

Luther College’s Center for Sustainable Communities welcomes six new AmeriCorps and FoodCorps members: Ashley Dress, Jake Geis, Felicia Pinto, Ashley Turk, Paige Wettach and Megan Woodward. This dedicated and diverse group of individuals comes from across the nation to volunteer for a year of service with one common goal: to help create a just and vibrant local food system and build active local communities. Housed at Luther’s Center for Sustainable Communities in partnership with the Northeast Iowa Food and Fitness initiative, members serve in 18 community school districts across the region.

Ashley Dress is originally from Carmel, Indiana and studied at Indiana University-Bloomington, graduating in 2008 with a bachelor’s degree in journalism. She has taught English as a second language in South Korea and served as a teacher collaborator and community outreach Peace Corps volunteer in Uthai Thani, Thailand. She has more than 10 years of teaching experience, ranging from preschoolers to adults. This past summer, she worked as an apprentice for a non-profit in Indianapolis, learning about urban farming and community wellness. Dress is an AmeriCorps member serving the New Hampton, St. Joseph and Postville school districts this year.

Jake Geis is the AmeriCorps contact for North Fayette Valley, West Central, Starmont and Riceville school districts. He was most recently the program coordinator at Imago Dei Village Camp in Clintonville, Wis. He served to create and lead activities for all grades and age groups while focusing on holistic safety, wellbeing and caring for natural creations. He is passionate about sharing fitness education with youth that encourages them towards active, healthy and fulfilling lifestyles. Geis is originally from Green Bay, and has a bachelor’s degree in environmental science and biology from Luther.

Felicia Pinto is an AmeriCorps member serving the MFL-MarMac and Clayton-Ridge school districts. She has traveled all the way from a small town in Massachusetts to serve at Luther. She graduated from Framingham State University in Massachusetts with a bachelor’s degree in food and dietetics. Prior to being accepted to the State Iowa AmeriCorp 4-H Outreach program she spent time volunteering for a few different companies where she taught others how to shop, eat and cook healthy.

            Ashley Turk is a FoodCorps service member serving the Allamkaee and Oelwein school districts. Turk was born and raised in northern Illinois in the Chicago suburbs. She has worked with children in a variety of settings from after school enrichment programs to classroom teaching. Turk is excited to be serving at Luther as it combines her two passions, children and food. She holds an undergraduate degree in psychology from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign with a minor in gender and women’s studies.

            Paige Wettach is an AmeriCorps member serving Turkey Valley, Howard-Winneshiek and Central Community school districts. She is from Decorah and graduated from Luther where she majored in communication studies. Wettach interned at the Decorah Area Chamber of Commerce, working on ad campaigns, newsletters, press releases and other forms of communication. Raised in an active family, she is extremely passionate about food and fitness and hopes to make a difference in helping kids develop healthy habits.

            Megan Woodward is an AmeriCorps member serving the Decorah and North Winnishiek school districts. She is from Oconomowac, Wis. and has a degree in women’s, gender and sexuality studies from the University of Wisconsin-La Crosse. She has spent two seasons working on an organic farm learning how to grow food and sharing her knowledge and passion with others. Her most recent experience with formal food and nutrition education comes from volunteering at NuGenesis Farm.

Luther is one of four core partners in the Northeast Iowa Food and Fitness Initiative, which includes Northeast Iowa Community College, Iowa State Extension and Outreach, and Upper Exploreland Regional Planning. Luther coordinates education and outreach to school districts by supporting wellness teams and through the direction and supervision of the AmeriCorps and FoodCorps members.

Within the schools, members serve a variety of needs including teaching kids about what healthy food is and where it comes from, getting kids actively learning with movement, building and tending school gardens, and bringing local food in to classrooms and cafeterias.

Over the course of the last three years that Luther and Northeast Iowa Food and Fitness have collaborated to help:

·      Create 17 new wellness teams that meet on a regular basis to promote wellness in school

·      Provide 1,000+ hours of nutrition education directly to students

·      Develop 11 new walking school buses throughout the region

·      Host more than 400 events for parents, teachers and students to encourage an active lifestyle and healthy food habits

·      Work with six school pilots to create healthier, tastier, fresher and local school lunches that meet the new Federal Guidelines and most importantly use school lunch as a means to teach kids how to build healthy food habits into their lives

·      Increase the amount of local food purchased by schools from $14,000 in 2011 to more than $20,000 in 2012

·      Pass comprehensive wellness policies in two districts including Decorah and Clayton-Ridge school districts, along with Allamakee and Central school districts modifying their current wellness and policies to add support of local food, school gardens and healthier cafeterias

·      Gain national attention. The Allamakee school district was visited by Senator Harkin’s office and congratulated on an amazing school lunch program. Howard-Winneshiek school district is to receive the Healthier US School Challenge Award this fall and Central school district received the award last year

·      Leverage more than $100,000 in grants and gifts to school for wellness projects

·      Build and maintain 18 school gardens, a natural playground and one brand new learning landscape located at MFL MarMac school district.

For more information on FoodCorps see: https://foodcorps.org/ and AmeriCorps see: http://www.nationalservice.gov/programs/americorps.