Arkansas GardenCorps is an AmeriCorps program hosted by the Access to Healthy Foods Research Group at the Arkansas Children’s Research Institute in Little Rock, Arkansas. The mission of GardenCorps is to promote the use of school and community gardens to increase environmental awareness and sustainable agriculture practices in Arkansas communities. GardenCorps members serve in school and community gardens across the state to develop and maintain gardens, conduct garden-based education, and build volunteer and community support for sustainability of gardens.

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The ACRI Access to Healthy Foods Research Group conducts state-of-the-art clinical, translational, and community-based research and provides leadership and coordination between various local and state partners to obtain evidence that can be used to develop strategies leading to the prevention of childhood obesity. The establishment and promotion of school and community gardens and sustainable agriculture practices is one of those strategies.


AmeriCorps, also known as the domestic Peace Corps, engages Americans of all ages in service opportunities each year. AmeriCorps members serve with local nonprofits and community agencies, where they have the opportunity to teach adults to read, make neighborhoods safer, teach children how to be healthier, as well as respond to and assist in natural disasters. In Arkansas, AmeriCorps members have been able to serve over 80,000 people. Most of these AmeriCorps members serve with projects like Arkansas Garden Corps, Legal Aid of Arkansas, and Arkansas Future Teacher Initiative, as well as many others.  Members can also serve in AmeriCorps*VISTA (Volunteers in Service to America), AmeriCorps*NCCC (the National Civilian Community Corps), and in Senior Corps in locations across America. Arkansas has AmeriCorps programs operating in all of its 75 counties.

Mission Statement

Strengthen community resources, volunteerism and national service in Arkansas

Vision Statement

The Division of Community Service & Nonprofit Support's vision is guided by the principle that volunteering, community and national service is a right and responsibility of all citizens and that all people will experience an improved quality of life as a result of this service.


Dr. Weber is the Director of the Arkansas Children's Research Institute Access to Healthy Foods Research Group and Arkansas GardenCorps, and is a Professor of Pediatrics in the College of Medicine at the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences. She is a childhood obesity researcher with over 20 years of experience in obesity prevention, including energy balance, and dietary and physical activity assessment. She has a history of consistent funding from the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF), and the National Institutes of Health (NIH) for studies addressing individual and environmental risk factors for obesity and related chronic diseases, school-, worksite-, and community-based obesity prevention interventions, and methodological issues in dietary and physical activity assessment. Dr. Weber obtained her PhD in Nutritional Sciences in 1994, and completed her postdoctoral training in Physiology in 1999, from the University of Arizona. She is also a Registered Dietitian. In her role as Lead Investigator, Dr. Weber is responsible for the direction of all aspects of the overall program.

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Emily English is a Program Administrator in the Access to Healthy Foods Research Group at Arkansas Children's Research Institute, where she oversees research and programming focused on increasing access, availability, and consumption of locally grown and produced good food for kids. In this role, she is the the Program Director of Arkansas GardenCorps and Arkansas Farm to School and serves as the Arkansas Core Partner for the National Farm to School Network. She received her Master of Public Service from the Clinton School of Public Service and her Master of Public Health from the College of Public Health at the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences, where she spent much of her time working on developing farm to school initiatives in Arkansas. Prior to graduate school, Emily worked on and managed small organic farming operations in Arkansas and Oregon. When not in the office, Emily spends her time gardening, cooking, wrangling a toddler, and trudging her way through a doctoral program in public health leadership.


Cale Nicholson is the Assistant Program Director of Arkansas GardenCorps and the Garden Program Specialist for the Arkansas Children's Research Institute Access to Healthy Foods Research Group. He received his BA in English from the University of Central Arkansas and his MA in Southern Studies from the University of Mississippi. Mr. Nicholson has completed organic gardening internships around the country, culminating in a year managing the Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) project at the Heifer Ranch in Perryville, AR. Mr. Nicholson also created the Teaching Garden at the Oxford Boys and Girls Club in conjunction with his graduate work through the Center for the Study of Southern Culture. After working with livestock for the last two years on a farm in the Hudson Valley in upstate New York, he is excited to be back in his home state helping children lead healthier lifestyles through gardening.


Jenna Rhodes is a Program Coordinator in the Arkansas Children's Research Institute Access to Healthy Foods Research Group.  She received a BS in Biology from Northwest Missouri State University.  She later completed a concurrent degree program and received a Masters of Public Service from the Clinton School of Public Service, and a Masters of Public Health, Health Behavior and Health Education Concentration, from the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences.  As a part of her graduate work she performed qualitative data collection and analysis from school and community partners involved in several new Arkansas school gardens, as well as worked on economic development projects related to walkability and strengthening local community organizational capacity, including the creation and continued coordination of a diverse community coalition.  When Jenna isn't at work she sings with Top Of The Rock, an all-female barbershop chorus, and attempts to be physically active, but mostly watches crime dramas on television.

Thursday the 17th. .