The Janet S Munt Family Room

Family Play at the Garden 

2023 Grant Amount: $5,200

The Family Play at the Garden program gives families the opportunity to grow their own food with a variety of supports. The Family Room provides plants, starters, compost, hay, childcare while parents work in the garden, and engaging outdoor activities. They also provide transportation to the garden for families who couldn’t otherwise get there because there is no public transportation to the Ethan Allen Homestead. 

The program also creates a space to welcome community partners who host workshops and classes. Some partners include WIC, the Vermont Foodbank, USCRI, the Vermont Department of Health, and the Vermont Garden Network. Some fun workshops include salsa and tortilla making, DIY pesto, cooking with local produce, conversational English, summer safety, and so much more.  

There are various components to this program that have benefits for families. Many Family Room families come from immigrant backgrounds, so growing their own food supports a healthy, familiar culture. In addition to providing fresh, organic, and nutritious foods, growing fresh food supports families’ mental health as well. Many families live in spaces such as apartment buildings where they wouldn’t be able to grow their own food, or they don’t have the means to grow their own food. This applies to many families, not just immigrants and refugees. Some families have never gardened before, and enjoy learning how to start one. In addition, they are saving money and understanding where their food is coming from. Learning how to prepare food from surplus crops helps families stretch their budgets. For many of us, when we don’t know how to cook something, we may throw it away or not access it. Families also share food with each other. 

Family Play at the Gardens also acts as a gateway to other programming and wrap-around services. As staff get to know families, it might become clear that they could benefit from other Family Room programs, or staff might realize the family is experiencing food insecurity and help them get SNAP benefits, or identify developmental concerns with children and work with parents to refer them to another agency with a warm handoff. The trust that builds up leads to many other roads of support.