Work for food justice! Apple Corps is hiring AmeriCorps members

AmeriCorps positions teaching nutrition and education in low-income schools in Seattle.Interested in a year of service? Have a passion for food justice? Apple Corps is hiring AmeriCorps Members for the 2015-16 service year!

Apple Corps is part of Solid Ground’s effort to address the root causes of obesity, malnutrition and hunger in underserved communities. National Service members work to promote healthy eating and active living for children living in poverty and experiencing oppression.

Our team is guided by the belief that all people deserve to live healthful lives. In this work, Apple Corps Members serve at elementary schools in communities where there is a high proportion of food insecurity, decreased access to healthy foods, and increased risk of childhood obesity. Apple Corps serves to educate school-age children and their families about nutrition, healthy cooking, gardening and behaviors that promote health.

Apple Corps Members collaborate with Solid Ground staff to teach classroom-based nutrition and healthy cooking lessons to Seattle Public Schools students, using evidence-based curricula, via 10- to 12-week educational units in three elementary schools and nearby community organizations.

Apple Corps is a program of the Washington Service Corps. All service positions run September 16, 2015 – August 15, 2016 (contingent on funding). Visit the Washington Service Corps website for information on requirements and how to apply.

Applications are accepted now through June 21, 2015. For questions, please email applecorps@solid-ground.org.

Upower: Combining physical fitness & confidence for youth

Growing up, there was never any question about whether or not I would be able to play softball for my high school. I played co-ed tee ball when I was 8, then graduated to slow-pitch for a community center team in middle school, and finally moved on to fast-pitch at Roosevelt High School. I had my very own uniform with a bright green “22” on the back of my gold-and black-striped jersey and stretchy Kelly green pants.

Sure, I didn’t have the nicest mitt in the outfield and sometimes getting to and from practice or games was difficult with two working parents and no car to transport myself. But I never questioned that playing sports was something that would ever be out of reach for me or anybody else. That it was a privilege within itself. Until I heard about Upower.

Andrea & Deiosha

Andrea & Deiosha

Upower is a nonprofit organization that brings fitness activities, specifically CrossFit, to high school teens in underserved communities. For families living on low incomes, opportunities for physical activity can be few and far between. Not all teens can afford participation in club or varsity sports, so Upower partners agencies that serve youth and local schools with fitness outlets to offer this free afterschool program that focuses on improving physical fitness in a safe environment for youth.

This year, a guidance counselor at Roosevelt High School looking to recruit more teens for the program put Jill Beck, co-founder and coach at Upower, in contact with Joanna Tarr, Children’s Advocate for the youth living on our Sand Point Housing Campus. “Being able to work with someone who knows these kids as much as Joanna does enables us to make sure the kids are successful. That’s why the partnership is important,” says Jill.

Attendance is mandatory for students and coaches. The experienced fitness coaches – in which there are at least two in every class – act as mentors for the teens, so they’re expected to have a “90% attendance rate, which is the same as the students. When you can’t come to work, you don’t just NOT show up! We’ve established that with our kids. They want to be accountable,” says Jill.

When it comes to the instructors, “We expect them to develop those relationships with these kids. When they develop a relationship, talk a little bit of trash back and forth, then that’s great.” Jill earned her spot as a crowd favorite. “Jill was there, always on top of things, making sure you had a goal in the first place. I bonded a lot with Jill,” says Andrea Rodriguez Fabian, 16, one of the Roosevelt students living at Sand Point who participated in the program.

Another participant, Deiosha Sparks, 15, says of the coaches, “They don’t let you slack or anything. They make sure you have done something new each day. They let you do what you do best. And you’ll be coming home sore and sweaty but after that day you’ll be like, ‘Wow, did I just do that?’ You feel really good about yourself!” Even Joanna noticed the positive effects of the workouts. “They would come home every day a little sweaty, looking a little tired, but with big smiles on their faces.” Even though school is out for summer, those smiles were still present.

Deiosha showing off her fave move: chest-to-bar pull-ups!

Deiosha showing off her fave move: chest to bar pull-ups!

“They push you hard to reach your goals, and they try to make it fun, too. I had some trouble with the pull-ups but I managed to try it out and put myself out there,” says Andrea. Andrea started the program stepping onto a 12-inch box, but by the end of the program was jumping onto an 18-inch box! Deiosha says, “It made me reach higher for my goals. Because I’m very active, but I didn’t have a lot of upper body strength, so it made me push harder to try something new.” Like chest to bar pull-ups. “I had never gotten my chest all the way up so one day I did it and I was really excited.” Deiosha says excitedly, reliving the moment as she speaks.

The classes are designed to help kids maintain a healthy weight and develop healthy habits – lifting their physical confidence – which can positively affect their academic performance. Beyond the goals of physical fitness, the UPower classes use an inclusive approach: the belief that anyone can be an athlete, as long as they believe in themselves. And this belief can also have an impact on the mental health of teens. “It’s about cheering on other people,” says Jill. Obviously, it works. “My confidence,” Andrea smiles when I ask her what she gained from the program. Andrea also recognizes the intensity of the classes, but encourages others to participate if they have the opportunity. “At first it might seem hard, but by the end it’s all worth it for your own benefit,” she says. Deiosha nods in agreement. “It’s very positive because it makes you think you can do things you never thought you could do.”

In order to create that positive attitude in class, instructors focus on creating activities that are inclusive of all levels of fitness and socioeconomic backgrounds. “For example, we held a Nutrition Challenge in the spring. Our nutritionist didn’t make it about shopping at Whole Foods, because not everybody can afford that. The first week of our challenge was to substitute water for sugary beverages. That doesn’t cost you anything; that actually saves you money!” Jill explained.

Inclusion seems to be a common theme at Upower. Every new student is interviewed in order to get to know them and their ambitions, as well as any existing obstacles such as lack of workout attire, which is graciously donated to UPower by members of Northwest Crossfit (NWCF).“They feel normal when they’re not wearing ‘kind-of, sort-of’ workout clothes,” says Jill. The space is also donated by Jake Platt, NWCF owner.

Moving forward, Jill tells me that, “We look forward to expanding the partnership for the upcoming school year. We’re there to provide a positive place for these kids. We don’t know what’s going on with them or what challenges they have, but we reward good attitude and effort and pushing yourself to be better than what you were an hour earlier. We hope to act as a stepping stone that can help the kids break the cycle of poverty.”

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Cooking Matters: Exercise!

Janna dePorter is an AmeriCorps/VISTA Member doing a year of service with Solid Ground’s Cooking Matters program, which provides classes on nutrition, healthy cooking and food budgeting for people at risk of hunger and malnutrition. This post is adapted from the Cooking Matters Seattle blog.

I hope that in these past few weeks, everyone has had the opportunity to get outside at least once and move around. In the Pacific NW, we have had some late sunny and warm weather – take advantage of it! When the weather outside is wonderful, you’d have to make up an excuse to stay indoors on the couch!

The benefits of exercise have been documented far and wide. It can help boost your mood, keep weight down, keep diabetes at bay, improve your fitness level, increase muscle and bone mass while decreasing fat mass, and make you feel great all around.

The USDA recommends that adults get 30 minutes of physical activity a day and that kids get 60 minutes a day. It may seem like a lot of time, but it really isn’t! Think about how many minutes there are in a day: 1,440. Certainly you can move around for at least 30 of those minutes. It does not have to be intense exercise either; moderate activity (enough to make it somewhat difficult to talk) is sufficient, and the 30 minutes do not have to occur all at the same time. You can break them up into three 10-minute segments if that makes it more manageable and likely that you will do it.

It’s also important to incorporate some strength training so that you don’t lose muscle. I like to count carrying groceries from the store to my home (about a 10-minute walk) as a good arm workout. Sometimes I even lift the grocery bags up and down and pretend that I’m doing bicep curls. Anyone who has volunteered with us knows that carrying all of the supplies from our cars to the classroom certainly counts as weight lifting!

Some suggestions for getting more physical activity:

  • Take the stairs instead of the elevator
  • Go for a walk after dinner
  • Park further away from your destination so that you walk more
  • Do something fun like dancing
  • Ask a friend if they would like to go for a walk instead of going to a café to catch up

Some great “getting active” resources:

Now get out and do something active!

Apple Corps seeds nutrition & fitness

The Apple Corps 2010/2011!

Last week Solid Ground’s Apple Corps AmeriCorps team showcased its efforts to counter childhood obesity through nutrition and fitness education and activities.

The eight Apple Corps Members each discussed their work during their one-year term to provide school and community-based nutrition and fitness education and awareness.

Team Members are actively engaged in local neighborhoods hardest hit by the obesity epidemic. They teach in schools, create family community market nights, coordinate cooking classes, garden clubs and walking challenges, and use other tools and partnerships to effect change.

Lessons Apple Corps Member Jen Yogi learned in school

Team member Heidi Evans brought Cooking Matters classes to the public housing facilities she worked in on behalf of Solid Ground’s Partners in Caring program. As one class member wrote in her evaluation, the “classes increased my confidence that I can cook healthy meals.”

In addition to developing and providing programming, Apple Corps Members received training and support in how to manage their projects, many of which involved significant community partnerships, and applied an anti-racist analysis to their work.

“I tried to not privilege certain ways of speaking about nutrition,” Heidi said, “and to value what others bring and the important role of cultural food traditions.”

Apple Corps Members will wrap up their projects over the next month or so, with a new team forming at the end of the Summer! You can learn more about the Corps and donate to support it on the Apple Corps webpage.

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