A non-profit in Yolo County is making changes in their schools in a big way. Yolo Farm to Fork, whose focus is to cultivate a taste and awareness for healthy produce among kids by engaging them in the growing process, awarded $25,000 in grants to 16 elementary schools to help build and maintain edible school gardens.
The grants, which were awarded especially to schools with large low income populations who need real-life resources to help fight obesity, will give schools seeds, plant starts, organic mulch, and garden supplies as well as technical training and coaching on how to integrate gardening with classroom instruction. Divided into ten $1000 grants as a part of the Taste Our Garden program and six $2500 grants as a part of the Futures Initiative, the money will ultimately help kids develop a knowledge, interest, and excitement about the foods they grow.
“They are begging to get in here,” said Jessica Friedman, recipient of two grants and 4th grade teacher at Woodland’s Dingle Elementary, which already organizes a school garden. “Once they have a taste of it, they’re dying to get in.”
Friedman, whose garden currently includes broccoli, carrots, cabbage, chards, garlic, herbs, and cauliflower that will be served in the cafeteria this week, has seen how school gardens take kids into an environment where what they learn in books comes to life in an engaging, hands-on, and memorable way.
The garden becomes the place of learning that schools are intended to be. And kids are excited about it. Learning possibilities are endless, whether kids go there to demonstrate how to use their five senses, to observe how weather affects plants, to find the bugs who benefit or harm vegetables, or to apply what they learned about a Healthy Plate by picking the vegetables they would put on their plate.
“They feel really free here. This is something they’re good at. They have a connection. They planted these plants and it’s there’s now,” said Friedman. “Hopefully by educating them through gardens and connecting it into classroom curriculum and nutritional choices, they can bring those decisions back to their families. That’s the ultimate goal.”
But how does creating a school garden help fight obesity in America, especially among low income children whose parents make their food decisions for them?
“That is why we having tastings,” said Suzanne Falzone, Vice President of Yolo Farm to Fork, speaking of garden tasting events where parents are invited to eat of the school’s produce as well as receive recipes. “These are inexpensive, grow it yourself products that you can make into these delicious foods that kids have now become habituated to liking.”
And, really, that’s what this is all about—habituate and educate.
“The goal of these grants is twofold,” said Falzone. “One, we want hands-on, experiential learning and we want to connect it to the classroom and curriculum. Two, we want to really cultivate a taste for healthy food in these kiddos. And they love to eat what they grow.”
The grants were made entirely possible by the generous support and sponsorship of the Sutter Davis Hospital Foundation and the Orchard Hill Family Fund. To learn more about Yolo Farm to Fork and the beneficial work they do , visit their website at www.yolofarmtofork.org.