Washington State University will lead the cooperative extension services of University of Arkansas, Cornell University, and Iowa State University in a $1 million USDA Food and Nutrition Service school garden pilot program. USDA Secretary Tom Vilsack announced the award on April 7th:
“School gardens hold great promise for educating our kids about food production and nutrition,” said Vilsack. “Learning where food comes from and what fresh food tastes like, and the pride of growing and serving your own fruits and vegetables, are life-changing experiences. Engaging kids in our efforts to end childhood hunger and curb childhood obesity is critical if we are going to succeed.”
Iowa State Extension 4-H and Youth Development specialist Janet Toering was quoted in a recent press release, which described the four main goals of the project:
- Increase fruit and vegetable consumption: “We want to increase kids’ access to and consumption of fruits and vegetables through hands-on learning about growing food,” Toering said.
- Empower youth in their communities: Youth will be highly involved in building and sustaining the gardens to maximize their interest and learning.
- Contribute toward a sustainable environment and food system: The pilot will help kids and educators appreciate the public health, environmental and social benefits gardens provide to local communities, such as physical activity, the connection to nature, fresh food production, social networks and sustainability.
- Build a nationwide network: Extension educators and volunteers will work across disciplines to leverage existing federal, state and local investments in programs like SNAP-ED (Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program Education), 4-H Youth Development, Master Gardeners and other community-based horticulture programs through a common garden-based learning program.
Congratulations Washington State (and Cornell, and Arkansas, and Iowa State)!
Bill Hoffman, USDA/NIFA