History of the program’s development
Eating from the Garden began in 2002 as a summer 4H youth development gardening program in the Kansas City area. For about three years, the program assisted schools and community centers with putting in gardens during the spring and summer months, and nutrition material from the FNEP curriculum was used to encourage kids to eat more fruits and vegetables through gardening.
In 2005, the Eating from the Garden program took on a new direction. It was determined that there was a need for a curriculum that was more nutrition based to blend in with the gardening curriculum. The Eating from the Garden curriculum was developed as a result with lesson time split between nutrition and gardening. The team decided to concentrate on the 4th-5th grade level and plant two gardens each year, one in the spring and one in the fall, and have the children plant and harvest the vegetables each season.
In 2007, the team applied for and received grant funding from the Health Care Foundation of Kansas City for an 18 month pilot project in the program format it is today. Based on the pilot and the desire to implement the program in more schools, the team adopted a trained nutrition garden volunteer format. Volunteers receive 30 hours of training in nutrition and gardening and then commit to giving 30 hours of volunteer time building the gardens and teaching the curriculum in area schools and community centers. Through the grant, the program hired a project coordinator and a part time volunteer coordinator to implement the program.
The team received a second 3-year grant from the Health Care Foundation and is piloting a second grade curriculum in some of the project schools this fall. The project has received tremendous assistance with building gardens and training volunteers from the Kansas City Community Gardens. Master Gardeners have also assisted with teaching and building gardens as a part of their Master Gardener volunteer expectations. The Family Nutrition Education Program provides some of the nutrition lessons for the schools and 4H associates have been trained to deliver the program in the afterschool program. Site directors at several local community centers have been trained to deliver the program. One school district uses high school agriculture students to assist with the teaching and mentoring of the younger kids in an afterschool program. We have also added chef demonstrations to our program.
During our third round of funding in 2012, our goal is to continue to integrate nutrition and gardening throughout our Eating From the Garden schools. We will be focusing on six pilot sites to include some of the following options. These options will entail setting up teams of parents, teachers, aides, custodians or other staff to support the maintenance of the garden and to assist with other activities, including:
- Setting up display cases
- Creating bulletin board displays with pictures of the kids working in the garden
- Adding high tunnels to expand growing seasons of fruits and vegetables
- Building compost bins and adding rain barrels to expand capabilities of the garden and teach science concepts
- Planting fruit trees to extend experiences in the garden
- Having garden days or festivals for all kids in the school
- Having fresh fruit and vegetable snacks for all students in the school
- Having short activities in all the classrooms about fruits and vegetables
- Developing short health announcements for the school that could be given by the kids
- Having monthly fruit or vegetable promotions that include tasting and use in the school lunch
- Identifying science experiments and math activities using garden plants and materials for each grade
- Having art classes create something with plant materials or graphically depict gardening and nutrition activities
- Providing continued education for staff and parents on gardening and nutrition
- Offering chef demonstrations