Trinity Children’s Center: Giving Garden Project

Grant Amount: $3,000

TCC was the first Therapeutic Child Care Center in the state of Vermont, as well as the first Head Start Community Partner Collaborative site - making us one of the first centers in the state to practice true inclusion by supporting all children no matter what their background or educational need. We provide wrap around services for our families through our collaboration with Head Start, The Howard Center, and school district special education programs. We view the children we serve AND their entire family unit as a part of our community; we want our families to know that they are part of a loving, supportive community, especially as they are navigating the challenges of parenting a young child.

In our classrooms, we strive to represent the community we live in. We use intentional enrollment to ensure that our classrooms are made up of students that represent the diversity of our community. As a result, TCC is a diverse community of learners and families with a multitude of languages, dialects, cultures, socioeconomic brackets, and strengths.

The project we are hoping to fund through the Seedling Grant is the Trinity Children's Center Giving Garden Project. The Giving Garden is a project that we have begun this year as a teaching space to help young children understand where their food comes from and help them feel empowered and excited to make healthy food choices, with the goal of sending fresh vegetables home with families who may otherwise lack access.

In April 2019 the Sunshine Classroom at Trinity Children's Center hosted a breakfast. We invited families to come in for the morning to start seeds that we obtained through a generous donation from High Mowing Organic Seeds, and enjoy breakfast foods made with vegetables we are planting, including zucchini muffins, carrot muffins, and tomato and kale quiche. In May 2019, we held a playground clean-up day and with the help of families we cleared an overgrown perennial garden next to our main entrance, moved the plants to other parts of our outdoor space, and prepared that space for planting a vegetable garden. In addition, during our annual National Outdoor Classroom Day, children from each classroom were able to help plant the seedlings we had started and construct a bean tee-pee.

Looking ahead, children will continue to be involved in maintenance of the garden; including weeding, watering, picking, and tasting the vegetables the garden produces. We will create plant tags with translations for the many languages that are spoken by TCC families, as well as photos for children and adults with limited literacy skills to be able to identify when the vegetables are ripe and ready to harvest.

Creating the Trinity Children's Center (TCC) Giving Garden is intended to help ease food insecurity for the families we serve. Currently 34 of our 64 students (53%) receive free lunch; based on their high level of poverty, this lunch may be the most substantial and nutritious meal they eat each day. Many of these families also have older children who access school lunch programs during the year, but may not have transportation to get to summer lunch sites. During the months when the Giving Garden will be most productive, we will be able to send home produce to help these families supplement what they are able to purchase.

Additionally, approximately 20% of our families are New Americans, for whom navigating access to food can be difficult and confusing. While many of these families do receive benefits from 3SquaresVT or WIC, factors like transportation, disability, or lack of English can make it difficult to use them. The food that is most accessible at food shelves is shelf stable and often processed; food that New Americans may not be comfortable cooking or eating. By growing produce that these families will utilize, we can help them to stretch their food budget further, continue to strengthen our home-school relationship, and honor their traditions and culture.