Luther College’s Center for Sustainable Communities welcomes 6 new AmeriCorps and FoodCorps members to help transform school environments across the Northeast Iowa region. 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 College’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.
Luther College is one of four core partners of the Northeast Iowa Food and Fitness Initiative, which includes Northeast Iowa Community College, Iowa State Extension and Outreach, and Upper Exploreland Regional Planning. Luther College coordinates education and outreach to school districts by supporting school 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 built into the day, building and tending school gardens, and bringing local food in to classrooms and cafeterias.
Over the course of the last four years that Luther College has hosted members Northeast Iowa, Food and Fitness has been able in schools to:
- Create 17 new wellness teams that meet on a regular basis to promote wellness in school.
- Provide 1000+ hours of nutrition education directly to students
- Develop 11 new walking school buses throughout the region
- Hosted over 400 different events for parents, teachers and students to encourage an active lifestyle and healthy food habits
- Worked with six school pilots to create Healthier! Tastier! Fresher! Local! school lunches that meet the new Federal Guidelines and most importantly use school lunch as a means to teach kids how build healthy food habits into their lives
- Increase the amount of local food purchased by schools from $14,000 in 2011 to well over $20000 in 2012
- Passed comprehensive wellness policies in two districts including Decorah CSD and Clayton-Ridge CSD, along with Allamakee CSD and Central CSD modifying their current wellness policies to add in support of local food, school gardens and healthier cafeterias
- Gained national attention. Allamakee CSD was visited by Senator’s Harkin’s office and congratulated on an amazing school lunch program. Howard-Winneshiek CSD is to receive the Healthier USschools Challenge Award this fall and Central CSD received the award last year.
- Leveraged over $100,000 and counting in grants and gifts to school for wellness projects
- Built and maintained 18 school gardens, a natural playground, and one brand new Learning Landscape located at MFL MarMac CSD
New Member Biographies
Megan Woodward (Decorah CSD, North Winnishiek CSD) is an AmeriCorps member serving with Luther College in partnership with The Northeast Iowa Food and Fitness Initiative. She is from Oconomowoc, Wisconsin and has a degree in Women’s, Gender, and Sexuality Studies from the University of Wisconsin – La Crosse. Megan 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. There, she guided classes through the garden, teaching students about the benefits of locally grown produce.
Felicia Pinto: (MFL MarMac CSD, Clayton-Ridge CSD) Felicia Pinto is an Americorps member serving with Luther College in partnership with the Northeast Iowa Food and Fitness Initiative. She has traveled all the way from a small town in Massachusetts to serve this upcoming year. She graduated from Framingham State University with a Bachelors in Food and Dietetics. Prior to being accepted to the State of Iowa AmeriCorp 4-H Outreach program she spent time volunteering for a few different companies were she taught others how to shop, eat, and cook healthy. She has worked in foodservice and hospitals for several years but community work is her true passion.
Ashley Dress (New Hampton CSD, St. Joeseph CSD, Postville CSD): Ashley Dress is originally from Carmel, Indiana and studied at Indiana University-Bloomington, graduating in 2008 with a B. A. in journalism. Although she still enjoys writing, life led her away from careers in that field: to teaching English as a second language in South Korea as well as serving as a teacher collaborator and community outreach Peace Corps volunteer in Uthai Thani, Thailand, from where she returned in February of this year. She has over 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. Ashley is excited about serving as a FoodCorps resource contact for Luther College in partnership with the Northeast Iowa Food and Fitness Initiative this year.
Ashley Turk (Allamkaee CSD and Oelwein CSD)is a FoodCorps service member serving at Luther College in partnership with the Northeast Iowa Food and Fitness Initiative. Ashley 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. Ashley is excited to be serving with initiative as it combines her two passions, children and food. She holds an undergraduate degree in Psychology from the University of Illinois Urbana Champaign with a minor in Gender and Women’s Studies.
Paige Wettach (Turkey Valley, Howard-Winneshiek, and Central Community School Districts) is an AmeriCorps member serving at Luther College in partnership with the Northeast Iowa Food and Fitness Initiative. She is partnered with. She is from Decorah, IA and graduated from Luther College where she majored in Communication Studies. Paige interned at the Decorah Area Chamber of Commerce, working on ad campaigns, newsletters, press releases, and other forms of communication. She has taught swimming lessons and volunteered in a second grade classroom, exploring her love for educating children. Raised in an active family, Paige is extremely passionate about food and fitness and hopes to make a difference in helping kids develop healthy habits.
Jake Geis: (North Fayette Valley, West Central, Riceville) Jake Geis is the AmeriCorps contact for North Fayette Valley, West Central, Starmont, and Riceville. He was most recently Program Coordinator at Imago Dei Village Camp in Clintonville, WI. Jake served to create and lead activities for all grades and age groups while focusing on holistic safety/wellbeing and caring for natural creations (like the human body!). He is passionate about sharing fitness education with youth that encourages them towards active, healthy, and fulfilling lifestyles. Jake is originally from Green Bay, and has a Bachelor’s degree in Environmental Science and Biology from Luther College.