Date: Feb 02, 2014
Magazine:
February 2014: The PACA Is Here to Help

For several years now, the Western Growers Foundation has been donating funds for school gardens in California and Arizona under the premise that teaching our students more about fruits and vegetables is a great way to make them life-long users of our products, and give them a better understanding of our industry.

We believe we have been very successful, but how do we monitor our activity and measure our success? 

We track the number of schools who have received grants from WGF.   As of this writing, 709 California and Arizona schools have received a grant, ranging from $500 to $2,500.  Check!

We monitor the number of children per school who participate in their edible garden.  Based on a recent study required of us for a California Department of Food and Agriculture grant, 101 students per school were active in their garden throughout that measured year.  Check!

We count the donations and grants WGF receives each year.  Last fiscal year, we raised more than $150,000 in general donations.  Annualizing our grants (which run 2 – 3 years) we average $120,000 per year in grants — mostly from the Specialty Crop Block program.  Check!

That is what we have been measuring because that is what we can measure.  What isn’t so easy to measure is the helpfulness of edible school gardens to our children, communities, parents, teachers and you, our members.  Going forward, that is what we will attempt to do.

Recent strategic planning at Western Growers conducted by Arbinger Institute staff suggested that we focus on our customers’ objectives and what they are able to do as a result of what they receive.  That means the true objective of the Foundation’s work is the usefulness it provides to our customers:  students, teachers, parents and WG members.

Students want to have fun and eat food that tastes good, food that means something to them, like when they grow it themselves.  Teachers want active participation in their classes; they want quality test scores and successful students.  Parents want their children to be healthy and happy, to eat “right” and be good students.  Our members want people to eat more of the good food they grow.

With our customers’ goals in mind, we have broadened our tracking to try to capture the usefulness of our work to our customers.  As a part of our grant agreements, our grantees have committed to providing us feedback on the helpfulness of the edible gardens.  This will include such efforts as polling the children before and after a planting cycle to see what fruits and vegetables they have learned about and that they now eat.  It may also include surveying parents on improvements in their children’s activity level, eating habits and health.  Schools have also already committed to an onsite visit where children can share, first hand, what the garden means to them.

And, as simple as it sounds, we are asking more questions, and listening and recording our customers’ responses.  Last fall, Laura Hurt, a principal in Yuma said, “Our kids learn so much from the garden. The science test results of the fourth-grade students increased 17 percent over last year’s numbers, which I believe is a result of the garden.”

Hard to measure?  Yes, but true giving is helping others accomplish their objectives and that is what we want to do.

WG Staff Contact

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Western Growers members care deeply for the food they grow, the land they sustain, the people they employ, and the community in which they live. 

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