For old Connie, community gardens are more than just a place for local, fresh food – they are places that have changed students.
Connie, director of athletics at Van Buren School District and school safety coordinator, says the community garden even helped a student who had struggled with writing.
“Teachers come up with ideas, and they don’t write. We just took it out to the garden when it started, and they were just amazed to see it grow. ” “That aroused their interest in writing, and so they wrote about what was in the garden. That made us all cry. ”
Education and Inspiration FoodCorps is one of the few students at Van Buren Schools to maintain gardens on campus.
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FoodCorps in Arkansas
FoodCorps, a member of the Ameri Corporation Corporation, places service members in schools where 50% or more students receive free and reduced lunch. Service members teach cooking, gardening and nutrition to promote a school-wide health culture.
Arkansas service stations are located in Cedarville, Conway, Helena-West Helena, Springdale and Van Buren.
“We typically need programs that address certain levels of access to food or vegetarian education, or are interested in building a program that can continue after the release of FoodCorps,” said Schlinker, co-director of the FoodCorps Arkansas program.
According to Schlinker, 1 in 6 Arkansas and 1 in 5 children in the state are malnourished.
In Kraford County, which includes Van Buren and Cedarville, the overall food insecurity for 2019 was 16.5%.
Four primary schools – Tate, Oliver Springs, King and Maekelawi – serve members of the FoodCorps Service and have their own campus gardens in Van Buren.
“Nowadays, as we all know, students probably did not go out and pollute their fields decades ago. Children have lost that knowledge of where food comes from, ”says Connie. They go into a grocery store or a walnut and see carrots, broccoli or whatever, and they never know where it comes from. This will return them to the roots where we actually grow and feed ourselves.
In and out of class
For FoodCorps, the three main areas of service are manual learning, healthy school meals, and school-wide health culture. Nationwide, nine service members have enrolled 4,314 students by 2020. Schlink said it served typically 9,000 to 10,000 students before the outbreak.
In the Tate Tiger Leopard School in Tate Elementary School, students participated in gardening camps, and they and their families harvested carrots, radishes, peas, and other vegetables. Following the Apple Seed and Growth Bowl program, they tried new recipes, including apple cabbage salad and homemade yogurt.
Schleiner emphasizes that the programs connect children with healthy foods and help them develop healthy lifestyles.
During the school year, service members teach cooking and nutrition lessons, lead after-school garden clubs, and work with school cafeteria staff to promote good eating habits.
“Often, especially during the winter, they do a lot of cooking lessons in the classroom, and the students just enjoy trying new foods and trying to grow things in their garden,” he said.
Conne said the educational impact of the program was enormous.
“Six years ago, when we met our first FoodCorps agent, she was shocked when she went to a cafeteria and asked what vegetables her kids liked: some vegetables were macaroni. One boy even said ice cream. ” Children are shocked because they do not really know what fruits and vegetables are and now these children are growing up and eating healthy.
Echoing this effect, Schlinker, citing a study by Food Corps and Columbia Teachers College, found that students who worked for 10 or more hours ate three times more fruits and vegetables.
We are seeing those behavior changes in our co-workers ለን We hear from parents that their student used to hate tomatoes, and now they are forced to buy tomatoes in a grocery store. She said.
Planting seeds for the new year
Conne and Schleiner described ways in which the program has adapted to continue supporting families and students during the epidemic.
When schools were closed, service members “sent home produce through food distribution,” helped families access information on the benefits of the food assistance program, and conducted virtual classes, Schlinker said. “… When [schools] Reopened, the garden was a great place for children to leave their rooms, to breathe, and to relax.
“Because people are reluctant to go to Walmart or the grocery store, our FoodCorps members have done a good job of putting their chosen products in one of those boxes,” says Conne. Families can come and pick some vegetables or grow them right away.
Conne said he hopes for the coming school year and that it is good to be able to keep children out of the garden.
“The fact that students and students who are involved in activities have a quiet time to read or participate in the arts is something I never thought we would think of as a gardening… for kids,” he said.
He added, “We had students who really struggled … and the gardens were free for them.” “They like to go out and have fun. It is peaceful for them. Some children may have certain behavioral issues and the garden is a way to get away from them and ease their minds.
Katherine Nolt is a member of the American Corps, a national service program that brings journalists to local news outlets. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.