Katie Wheeler is an MTCC AmeriCorps VISTA serving with the FoodCorps team in Kalispell.
 
I knew the time would come where I would have to make a choice.  To stay or go. 
Finish my term as an AmeriCorps VISTA and leave Montana to head back to Pittsburgh and begin a graduate program in Food Studies…
OR
…Stay in Kalispell and continue Farm 2 School and food security work.
I have my parents, extended family and friends back east, as well as acceptance into a great graduate school and my beloved city — all of which carry a hefty weight.
But the list of reasons to stay has always been long.   What I have found here — the new friends and family, the fulfilling work in a beautiful community, and the professional and personal connections that somehow manage to run so deep after such a short time — words cannot do justice. 
And now, as the list of reasons to stay continues to grow, it is clear I have made the right choice to join National FoodCorps and go on with my work with Kalispell District 5. 

The above photo was taken at KMS and displayed on the 
Communities Take Root website during a 
6-week national voting period.
Some of the newest additions to the “Stay” list include the first-time implementation of a Summer Food Service Program in Kalispell run through District 5, and our triumph in the Communities Take Root national competition sponsored by Dreyer’s Fruit Bars.  

On June 18th,  a 30-40 tree orchard named Grace Orchard: Nourishing Connections at Kalispell Middle School will be installed.  Once it is producing at full capacity, it will provide fresh (and VERY local) fruit to the district food service program and any excess will be donated to the Flathead Food Bank. My mind is already swimming with ideas for ways to integrate the orchard into F2S and nutrition lessons at KMS next year!  
In addition, Jenny Montague, District 5 food service staff, and I have been working diligently this last month to put all of our ducks in a row for the start of our new Summer Food Service Program (SFSP).  The program will provide free lunch and breakfast at three locations throughout the summer, and though an enormous task in a town the size of Kalispell, we could not be happier to make it happen.  In a district where the schools have Free/Reduced lunch rates that range from 36-72%, the need is clear. 
Aside from the obvious benefit (providing free food to local youth!), I am most excited about the timing of the program.  Because what happens in the summer?  Food GROWS!  And a lot of food at that.  As the evident local food enthusiast, this is a BIG (Flathead) cherry on top!
Wish us luck in our first try at hosting SFSP and help spread the word in the Flathead!  We’ll be looking for volunteers all summer long so please contact me if you or anyone you know would like to lend a hand.  You can find me at Katie.t.wheeler@gmail.com or (412) 952-6719.