Last month, Western Growers Foundation in collaboration with the California Department of Education (CDE), Nutrition Services (NSD), awarded 100 garden grants of $1,000 each to eligible child care centers /preschools participating in the Child and Adult Care Food Program (CACFP).
This program was made possible through a USDA Specialty Crop Block Grant, administered through the California Department of Food and Agriculture, to WGF.
This is the second year in row that WGF received such a grant to administer. In the last two years, these grants alone have allowed 200 preschool / child care centers to grow and sustain an edible garden at their facility. After the success of the first year’s round of 100 grants, CDE encouraged Western Growers Foundation to apply for the block grant again. Kelley Knapp, nutrition education consultant with the California Department of Education (CDE) said, “At CDE, Nutrition Services Division, we were excited for the opportunity to work with WGF again and help provide these garden grants to child care centers participating in the Child and Adult Care Food Program (CACFP). This is a great partnership between WGF, the CDE, and the California Department of Food and Agriculture. The goal of the CACFP is to provide healthy meals and snacks to children in child care. The preschool garden grants help our CACFP agencies to meet this goal by using gardens as outdoor classrooms where young children can plant, grow, and harvest some of the seasonal vegetables and fruit they will eat.”
The child care centers / preschools receive a grant package with a $1,000 check for their fruit and vegetable garden, a California School Garden Network, “Gardens for Learning” book, Producepedia.com bookmarks and seed packets. In addition to receiving the materials, the child care centers or preschools must provide follow up on their program through a survey that WGF administers later in the year.
“The grant package helped us to sustain our garden in a numerous amount of ways,” said Danielle Roberts of Family Matters Child Care Center. “The array of vegetables this year got the children open to trying new things. They learned that they really liked squash, but also learned that many of them didn’t like beets. Getting children to try new food is always a plus, so you could imagine how excited I was when my whole class tried all the fruits and vegetables from the garden. The [garden] tools were also a big thing that the grant helped out with. The [children] loved getting the shovels and turning the dirt. They also loved raking the dirt into rows for the garden.”
Western Growers Foundation Director Paula Olson said: “Thinking day care children might be a little young, I wasn’t quite a believer in the pre-school garden program until I visited several myself where I saw children active in the garden, engaging in teamwork, knowledgeable about a variety of fruits and veggies and … best of all — eating, lo, devouring carrots, strawberries, oranges and sweet peas that they had grown and that I brought for them. It was wonderful to see.”
Western Growers Foundation’s goal is to create and sustain an edible school garden in every willing CA and AZ school. To donate to Western Growers Foundation, please visit www.westerngrowersfoundation.org/donate.
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