Capt. Albert Stevens School in Belfast has been chosen to host a FoodCorps associate for the 2018-19 school year. Melia Demers, from Washington state, has excepted the position and will begin her training and orientation later this summer.

FoodCorps, a national nonprofit organization affiliated with AmeriCorps, whose mission is to work with communities to connect kids to healthy foods in school, will be teaching CASS third-graders gardening, cooking and expanding their nutritional horizons.

CASS Principal Glen Widmer previously worked with FoodCorps when he was principal at Walker Elementary in Liberty. In 2012 Walker brought onboard its first FoodCorps associate to work with students in the school's greenhouse and incorporate student-grown vegetables into the school lunch program.

The program at Walker served as a model for the district's three other elementary schools, as well as for schools in other districts.

Eventually the program grew to encompass a hoop house at Morse Memorial School in Brooks, a greenhouse at Monroe Elementary School, raised beds and tilled areas at Troy Central School, and 11 raised beds, a greenhouse, and a 25-by-25-foot tilled area at Walker, as well as an extensive curriculum that ties garden projects to existing learning objectives.

Widmer hopes to establish a similar garden program district-wide for Regional School Unit 71, starting with CASS for a year, then gradually branching out to the other five elementary schools within the district.

CASS has secured a $7,000 grant from Maine Community Foundation to help fund the program, along with a pledge of $1,000 from its Parent Teacher Group.

"The $7,000 will help with supplies and a stipend for the assistant," Widmer said.

To help set the stage, a group of six from CASS will be traveling to Shelburne Farms in Vermont at the end of June to come up with an action plan through the Northeast Farm to School Institute program offered there.

Widmer says the workshops offered will help them come up with a garden plan, and a program coach checks in with them periodically throughout the year to see how efforts are progressing.

Some of the objectives Widmer hopes to accomplish are to increase locally grown food in the lunch program, to increase the school's garden capacity, to possibly start a greenhouse, and to make the curriculum more action-learning in regard to nutrition.

The FoodCorps program "provides opportunities to learn with real-life examples," Widmer said.

"We are very excited," he said. "The best learning is active learning where kids learn and grow through something tangible."