The Community Food Bank’s Farm to Child Program has received a $20,000 grant from the Community Foundation for Southern Arizona. The grant will be used to support the program’s ongoing mission to involve low-income schools, children, and parents in gardening-related activities and local food production. The Farm to Child Program helps students develop better eating habits, perform better academically, and reduce behavioral problems by creating sustainable spaces in school where food is grown and community engagement is encouraged. Nationally, Arizona has the 3rd highest rate of childhood food insecurity. The bottom line: every day in Arizona, 1 in 4 kids do not know where their next meal will come from. Recent studies have shown that children ages 6 to 11 living in low-income homes have more than a 20% chance of suffering from obesity.
The Farm to Child Program supports 25 to 30 schools by providing gardening materials, including seed and compost, and on-site technical assistance. In addition, program staff carry out more than 40 workshops annually on gardening, harvesting, cooking, and nutrition. In 2014, the Program reached 7,500 students through school gardens, which has been shown to improve attitudes and behaviors regarding fresh produce. Just two years ago, schools were strictly prohibited from serving garden food in the cafeteria, due to health department policies. In partnership with the Farm to Child Program, the Arizona Department of Health Services (AZDHS) has updated its guidelines to make serving garden food in the cafeteria an easier process. In fact, according to Kathryn Mathewson, of the AZDHS, schools from Ajo to Flagstaff are lining up to get their gardens certified and serve their harvest as part of a well-balanced school lunch.
Chris Mazzarella, Farm to Child Program Manager, says, “School gardens are an important source of nutritious food. Garden produce is the first step towards a better future, one that leads to good health and self-sufficiency.” This program is an earnest effort to get children wholesome food. “Schools in southern Arizona are places of life, where gardens grow an abundance of food and students learn by getting their hands dirty,” says Food Bank CEO Michael McDonald. “Teachers, parents, and school staff are creating classrooms and cafeterias that help us increase access to healthy food.” This $20,000 grant will enable the Farm to Child Program to continue its work preparing students and their families to live healthy, hunger-free lives. Barbara L. Brown, Vice President of Program Services and Community Initiatives at the Community Foundation for Southern Arizona, says, “We’re pleased to support the Food Bank in its efforts to reduce the effects of poverty on local school-children and their families. The work being done by the Farm to Child Program is quite remarkable, and we fully support them in their ongoing efforts.”
For more information, visit the Community Food Bank’s website.