by Guest Blogger Lori Ross, Anne Arundel County Master Gardener
Children today, especially in those living in urban and suburban areas, rarely have the opportunity to participate in gardening and most have never tasted garden fresh vegetables, warm from the sun and full of nutrition and flavor. Many of these children claim they don’t like vegetables and rarely eat them. Lisa Winters and her team of Anne Arundel Master Gardener volunteers decided to change that for at least a few local kids, by creating the Grow It, Eat It Summer Camp.
The goal of the Grow It, Eat It Summer Camp is to create excitement among children about gardening and eating garden fresh vegetables and fruits every day that will extend to their parents and families.
From the last week of June to the first week of August, children aged 5-12 at the Grow It, Eat It Summer Camp worked with volunteers to: plan a container garden; select greens to plant by tasting edible parts of the fruit and vegetable plants (seeds, roots, leaves, stem); plant and maintain their salad boxes, learn about the Food Pyramid and eating “5-servings-a-Day” of fruits and vegetables and they engage in physical activity. Even Summer Camp Counselors, who represent underserved communities, became very enthusiastic about what the children were learning and asked for help from Lisa and her four regular volunteers and interns in starting their own salad boxes.
Children participating in the program not only got to grow their own garden and bring home produce to share with family, but they demonstrate a 70% increase in knowledge about food, nutrition and gardening at the end of the program. The program also helps educate children’s parents about the benefits of gardening and eating “5-a-Day.” More than 179 children and adults were reached through this exemplary program.
The program was so successful in 2009 that, in 2010, Grow It, Eat It Summer Camp is expanded from Lindale and Severn schools to Annapolis City specifically — Tyler Heights and Eastport Elementary Schools and the Stanton Community Center, one of the Annapolis Recreation and Parks Department’s indoor facilities. 2010 partners include Annapolis Parks and Recreation and Annapolis City Schools and plans include development of a formal curriculum and expansion of volunteer training.
“Something happened between generations in the past 50 years. Kids and their parents are now disconnected from the source of their foods. If we start to teach this generation about gardening and fresh foods while they are young they will try to protect and preserve farms, farming and the agricultural way of life in the future.” said Lisa Winters, Project Leader for Anne Arundel Master Gardeners Grow It, Eat It Summer Camp.
Photos by Lori Ross.