2022 Grant Amount: $2,500
A Seedling Grant conceived and funded the Growing Food, Growing Families, Growing Hope project in 2017. With funding, a garden space was created to act as a catalyst for teaching, in collaboration with Lund's Early Childhood Education Program (LECP), young pregnant or parenting clients and preschool-aged children about gardening and the local food movement in collaboration. The garden is currently composed of eight raised beds, an outdoor classroom area, and two water barrels.
LECP is a five-star, high quality, trauma-informed childcare program where the most critical and impactful work takes place. The most important social-emotional learning, physical, and cognitive development occurs between ages 0-5. LECP works to help children meet and exceed their developmental goals. LECP values getting outside, singing, painting, reading, dancing, building, sharing, problem solving, making friendships, playing with moon sand, and countless other fun activities that include intentional educational components like the Growing Food, Growing Families, Growing Hope project.
LECP uses The Creative Curriculum, which is an established early education curriculum recognizing that children suffering from the effects of trauma must first be aided in social-emotional development, before they can begin to master the academic skills needed for success in kindergarten. LECP employs several innovative techniques designed to serve children from all backgrounds and build the skills for success in school and beyond. The Growing Food, Growing Families, Growing Hope project is an extension of this work that teaches children empathy through taking care of the garden.
In addition to teaching empathy and helping developmental growth, the project also promotes healthy eating habits during early childhood that last a lifetime. LECP educates families about the benefits of knowing where food comes from, how to prepare healthy meals, and the overall health & wellness benefits of this knowledge. The hope that LECP brings ensures that learning is reinforced and brought home. LECP turns the routine into a daily healthy practice.
Lund accomplishes this in many fun ways! For example, at LECP, we start by exposing children to different vegetables grown on-site or provided by our community partners. Staff perform taste tests with the children where they are presented with new vegetables twice. If the children initially dislike the taste, staff present another option. Staff try again and often find the children now love it. A sticker reward is always given!
This space provides our students a hands-on experience to learn about planting, weeding, watering, feeding, and harvesting of vegetables. They also learn about the importance and the possibility of incorporating locally sourced food into their daily diets. Students get to witness the plants being started from seed and growing into harvestable food. LECP uses food from their gardens in cooking classes, and to supplement LECPs lunch/snack program.
As Lund’s services expand to meet growing community needs, this garden continues to be a cornerstone of LECP. The garden is exposed to the elements and in turn, areas of improvement are critically needed. It is also an interactive space with preschool-aged children that must remain safe to both learn and play in.
The items listed below were suggested by LECP staff, clients, and their children in order to ensure that this program can continue to make an enduring impact and meet program outcomes.
- Garden Arch
- Cucumber Trellis
- Children’s Vegetable Trugs
- Garden Planters-Corten Modular Raised Beds 2x4 & 2X6
- Patio Planter-Rowlinson
- 2 Corner Box Planters-Corten Steel
- Picnic Tables
- Soil, Compost, Fertilizer
The work will take place over the course of Lund’s 2023 fiscal year (July 1, 2022 to June 30, 2023). Partners for this project will include
Lund Early Childhood Education Program (LECP), Intervale Community Farm (ICF), Vermont Community Garden Network (VCGN), Howard Center, and Gardeners Supply.
A successful example of how the Growing Food, Growing Families, Growing Hope project works was recently shared by an LECP teacher. A parent from the residential treatment program also had a child at LECP. While working with the parent and child, staff soon began to see the child frequently requesting kale. The parent observed this as well, and was thrilled at the new healthy food option, as well as the healthy choice, by the child. Critically, an opportunity for social-emotional-bonding took place in an otherwise traumatic relationship.
The parent then requested further education on preparing kale in a way that the child would enjoy. This simple experience provides the parent and the child an opportunity to begin overcoming the trauma they experienced. It also provides a launching point to further develop a lifelong bond not only with each other, but also with healthy food choices.
The meaningful impacts of supporting this project are far-reaching. Lund’s clients often have little to no exposure or education about local agricultural resources. There is often little inspiration for learning about what is available, and the importance of supporting our local food system. This project addresses inter-generational problem. We need to reach the most affected groups to change how food systems are viewed.
We must educate about living more sustainably: eating healthier, choosing products that are less environmentally impactful, and supporting the local economy. Those whom Lund serves must know that they can make more positive lifestyle choices and that there are community resources to support them in doing so. We must continue building momentum in strengthening local food systems.
A second goal for this project is to continue building our relationships with local farms. Little of the food served is locally sourced. By bridging these relationships, we not only improve our own gardens, but also the increase in the amount of food from a 20-mile radius. This would give us yet another platform to further educate our clients about the benefits of supporting our local food systems and further build the momentum for these families to prioritize making it a part of their lives.