On a rainy day in late March, Drew and Chelsea (McClarty) Ketelsen of HMC Farms and WG’s Paula Olson made a whirlwind tour around Oakland, Calif. The McClarty family donated $10,000 to the Western Growers Foundation and, after a rigorous application process, it awarded several Oakland schools $1,000 each to grow and sustain a fruit and vegetable garden.
Why Oakland? “It’s tough all over for children to get their five to nine servings of fruits and vegetables,” Chelsea said. “Drew and I know urban teachers, and we have heard their stories. After visiting these schools and talking with the students and teachers, we knew we made the right choice.”
Often a teacher or parent will lead a school garden effort, but at Elmhurst Community Prep on the East Side of Oakland, HealthCorps Navigator Matthew Crimp took that role. “We are out here twice a week and the students learn where healthy food comes from and how to prepare it,” Crimp said. “Practically every meal we cook in our after-school groups has ingredients that students harvest directly from the garden."
Serving in the school-based health clinic, Crimp provided some additional insight. He sees the intersection of health with nutrition every day and said the number-one biggest complaint from students is a headache or stomachache. When asked if they've eaten a nutritious meal in the last 12 hours, the answer is usually no. “The lack of nutritious food in their diet makes students sleepy, cranky, and generally not able to perform academically to the level at which we know they can,” he said. “Our goal with our garden and providing them access to nutritious fruits and vegetables is to do away with seeing that health condition in our clinic, and to give our students the ability and the opportunity to achieve the way we know they can.”
On the other side of town, under the shade and rattling of BART was Ascend Elementary. Jayson Weldon, who’s run the edible garden for five years said, “The best way to teach students about their food and where it comes from is to get them out in our gardens with their hands in the dirt. It is an experience important for our students as issues of healthy eating habits, access to quality food, and food sustainability become relevant to their lives.”
Briceyda, a first grader, said, "I never liked vegetables until I grew my own." But Briceyda wasn’t the only child inspired by the garden. Luis another first grader, after planting radishes and finding some insects to put in a terrarium said, “This was the best day ever.” The tour took the trio to a total of five schools, and for Drew, Chelsea and Paula, they had to agree it was also one of their best days ever.
For more information about the Foundation, including how you can donate, visit http://www.westerngrowersfoundation.org/.
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