Posts tagged with Early Education
In late February of this year, we welcomed Melissa Freiburger as the newest addition to Families, Farmers and Educators United (FFEU). Melissa is our Family Engagement Facilitator and has spent the past couple of months creating new and exciting initiatives at all nine of our participating child care centers. In the first couple of years of the FFEU program, our CSA arrangements and the Weekly Harvest Newsletter were really the only ways we reached families of children in the participating child care centers. Initially, we were focused on reaching the children and early educators through gardening, training and the Root for Food curriculum. However, we became increasingly aware that the families of the participating children often were not aware of the program. Fortunately, we were awarded a Recognition Grant from the Kansas Health Foundation early this year and were able to hire Melissa to focus entirely on engaging families in the program.
As we all know, children are sponges. They soak up all of the information their brains are taking in throughout the day. Often, at child care, if they see their friends and teachers eating healthy fruits and vegetables, they are more likely to eat it themselves. We hear over and over that parents are shocked at the vegetables their child is willing to eat in child care that they would never touch at home. It’s fantastic that early educators are able to provide that environment and opportunity to eat healthy. However, if the child then goes home to a dinner devoid of anything green, those healthy habits are not reinforced. That’s why we decided that bringing families into the process of learning healthier habits was crucial.
The outcome we’re looking for is cultural change, which is a challenging task. Melissa is doing an amazing job at increasing the visibility of healthy eating, gardening and food preparation. The more that parents see these activities happening at their child care center, the more interested they become in trying new foods themselves. First, Melissa sent out a survey to families to find out what they would be interested in doing. The year’s plan has been based on those results. One activity that is now happening at each center is taste tests. Each month, Melissa will bring a new food for kids and families to try. In May, each center got to try spinach pesto! If kids tried the pesto, they could then vote by tossing a pom pom into the jar labeled, “I like it” or “not today.” Parents were shocked to see their child willing to try this new green food, and they were even more surprised when their child liked it! One boy was not sure he wanted to try it and was headed out the door. Once he was outside, he changed his mind and asked his dad to take him back inside to try it. What brave kids! The more they see their own families and friends trying new foods, planting gardens and cooking healthy meals, the more willing and excited they are to do the same.
The family engagement activities generally take place between 4 and 6pm to make sure to catch families when they pick up their child. Another activity came from an incredibly valuable new partnership with the Master Gardeners. We have been so lucky as to find several Master Gardeners who are excited about our program and have been willing to give their time and expertise to set up garden information booths at several of the centers. Children and parents alike have loved having these volunteers present at their centers to talk about gardening and take home their very own chive plants! Slowly, families are beginning to recognize Melissa at their center and they know she will have something fun to do. Other activities have included seed plantings, a composting lesson, CSA promotion, field trips to farms and the farmers’ market, planting parties and a cooking class by Harvesters that we hope to continue. We’ve also added a second page on to our Weekly Harvest newsletter that includes a take home activity involving gardening, cooking or exploring local foods in our community. As families learn more about the benefits of healthy eating, gardening and the local food system by engaging in fun activities with their child, we hope that the culture will slowly shift in a positive direction. Luckily, most people have a tradition of agriculture and healthy food preparation in their recent family history. We just need to remind each other that learning those self-sufficiency skills again can be fun and rewarding. We can then pass the knowledge down to the next generation and continue making progress toward a healthier and more engaged community.
Did you know there is a growing national Farm to Preschool movement? Douglas County is a part of the movement and you can be involved in a number of ways! But first, you might be wondering, "What is Farm to Preschool?" Farm to Preschool (or Child Care) has many of the same goals and activities as Farm to School programs. The National Farm to School Network increases access to local food and nutrition education to improve children’s health, strengthen family farms, and cultivate vibrant communities. Today, all 50 states participate in Farm to School in one way or another.
Now there is growing recognition that it is also important to reach children at an even younger age with access and education around local foods. Here is what farmtopreschool.org has to say about the movement:
“Farm to Preschool is a natural expansion of the national farm to school model and encompasses a wide range of programs and activities. Farm to Preschool serves the full spectrum of child care delivery: preschools, Head Start, center-based, programs in K-12 school districts, nurseries and family home care facilities. Its goals are multi-level and include: influencing the eating habits of young children while their preferences are forming; creating healthy lifestyles through good nutrition and experiential opportunities such as gardening; improving healthy food access at home and within the community; and ultimately influencing policies to address the childhood obesity epidemic through a local food lens. Program activities can take an environmental and systems change approach by serving preschoolers, teachers and child care providers, parents and family members, as well as communities.
Program components can include the following: sourcing local foods in school snacks and meals; promoting and increasing access to local foods for providers and families; offering nutrition and/or garden-based curricula; school gardening; in-class food preparation and taste testing; field trips to farms, farmers’ markets and community gardens; parent workshops; implementing preschool wellness policies which address Farm to Preschool principles; and influencing policies at the local, state or national level.”
Douglas County’s Farm to Preschool program, Families, Farmers and Educators United includes most of the above components. We would love more community involvement! So, how can you get involved? We have a few ideas!
• Post here, or email some of your favorite gardening, cooking, nutrition, or farm-related activities to do with young children. We might include your activity in our Root for Food curriculum!
• Subscribe to pick up fresh produce at one of the Community Supported Agriculture drop-off sites (contact Emily to find out your options).
• Send us examples of wellness policies that have been successful in your workplace or child care setting.
• Donate gardening supplies!
• Connect your organization to ours! If you are involved in health, gardening or local food systems through education, policy, research, outreach or any other way, we want to collaborate!
Let’s work TOGETHER toward a healthier, more sustainable community!
Contact Emily Hampton with ideas or more details: firstname.lastname@example.org
The new year has started off on an exciting note for the Douglas County Child Development Association’s program, Families, Farmers and Educators United (FFEU). The Farm to Child Care program has been awarded multiple grants for continuation through 2013 that will allow for greater community collaboration and targeted family outreach. FFEU has spent the past two years working with directors and staff at nine area child care centers and 25 in-home child care providers throughout Douglas County. The program's coordinators have worked with participants to build gardens for the youngest children in our community to gain hands-on experience growing their own food. Early educators have spent countless hours using the Root for Food curriculum to teach young children all about food: where it comes from, how it gets from the farm to our plates, and how to make healthy choices. Nine local farms were matched with the participating nine child care centers and dropped off over 2,000 bags of local produce to subscribing families and centers. In 2012 alone, over $32,000 was kept within our local economy and went directly back to our local farmers through this Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) arrangement. Seven early educator trainings were conducted within 2012 that gave child care providers tools and information related to food and nutrition that they could pass along to the children in their care. Directors at the child care centers all agreed to develop or improve upon wellness policies at their centers. 18 Weekly Harvest Newsletters were sent out to families over the CSA season, which included information about seasonal produce, recipes, Local Food News, and current lessons being conducted through the Root for Food curriculum. Through the following grant awards, FFEU will be able to continue and expand upon this important work:
- United Methodist Health Ministry Fund $30,000
- Topeka Community Foundation $7,500
- Kansas Health Foundation $25,000
- Ethel and Raymond F. Rice Foundation $15,000
Thanks to this tremendous support from local and respected foundations, FFEU will be making a more concerted effort to reach as many families as possible with opportunities to engage in the local food system and provide a healthier lifestyle for their children. As community leaders recognize the importance of engaging families and children still in their formative years, and with the inspiration and hard work of the families, farmers and educators involved, FFEU is reinvigorated and sure of reaching its goals of decreasing the incidence of childhood obesity and strengthening the local food system in Douglas County.
The Douglas County Child Development Association will be hosting the 2nd annual Fall Harvest Festival! The festival will take place on September 16th in celebration of the second year of the farm to child care program, Families, Farmers and Educators United. Participants and supporters of the program are invited to come out to the Pendleton's Country Market to enjoy local food, music and family-friendly games.
Thanks to all of the generous donors who made it possible: Pachamamas, 715, Wheatfields Bakery, Sylas and Maddy's, Sunflower Rental, MSM Systems, J&S Coffee Co., Z's Divine Espresso, KU's Alternative Weekend Breaks and other volunteers, musicians, photographer, and of course the Pendletons!
It should be a beautiful weekend to commemorate the achievements of everyone involved in teaching our young people about healthy, local food!
When working to improve the health of the community and strengthen the local food system, all the pieces of the puzzle are needed. While each part is crucial, the system will not change in any meaningful or lasting way unless all components are present and working together. Without awareness, policies will not be examined. Without policies, actions will not be sustained. Without access, change is not an option. Without education and relationships, access is futile. Families, Farmers and Educators United (FFEU) aims to address all of these components in order to sustain positive change. We spread awareness about the growing childhood obesity issue, we work toward policy change within child care settings, we provide access to nutritious and local food through Community Supported Agriculture and gardening, and we emphasize education and relationship-building through educator trainings and family farm field trips.
In past articles, we have shared photos and stories about Community Supported Agriculture, gardening and cooking with kids. Over the past year and a half, we have also hosted a number of trainings for early educators that provide information about nutrition, local foods, food preparation and gardening. Recently, FFEU organized a weekend family field trip to Maggie's Farm where young children and families got to meet farmer, Barbara Clark and her sheep. Children also got a chance to dig potatoes and plant their own gourds to take home. Through education and family outreach, we hope to change the minds and habits of the early educators and families in a positive way. Children learn from the adults in their lives. By increasing the awareness of adults, we hope that children's lives and health will be improved along the way.
We love being a part of the Lawrence and Douglas County community where community members are making a difference in the health and lives of children. On the same morning as our Maggie's Farm field trip, the Garden Incubator (a child-centered community garden next to Ballard Community Services) partnered with Dads of Douglas County and the 2012 Summer Fun Hunt for a kids hunt in the veggie maze. This Saturday, Growing Food, Growing Health will host a 5K to support their school gardens. The FFEU program is just one of the amazing groups working toward similar goals, and we are grateful to be a piece of the health and gardening puzzle here in Douglas County. Perhaps together, the solution to childhood obesity will no longer be so puzzling!
If the idea of cooking with children—young children— gives you the chills, you’re not alone. It’s a common feeling among anyone who has spent time cleaning up after a two-year-old eats lunch. Simply put, it sounds like more trouble than it’s worth. But just for a minute, let’s suspend the reality of sticky counters, splattered kitchen appliances and grimy little hands….
Think about all the things we want for our children. We want our kids to be able to identify healthy and unhealthy foods. We want them to recognize the social value of preparing food and cooking with family and friends. We want them to feel comfortable making good choices about the food they eat three or more times per day. And eventually we want them to have confidence in the kitchen and understand how to stay safe around hot dishes and sharp utensils. Exposing children to food preparation and cooking at an early age can teach them valuable skills and habits that will serve them well throughout life.
The Farm to Childcare program at DCCDA, Families, Farmers and Educators United, is committed to fighting childhood obesity and strengthening our community’s food system in order to protect the health of our youngest generation. Program staff have recently made visits to a number of family child care homes in order to help child care providers incorporate healthy food preparation and cooking into their normal routines with kids. The pictures you see illustrate these adventures. The kids have learned to prepare Strawberry Lassies (smoothies), Zucchini Boats and even Garden Pizzas on homemade dough. Often a few of the ingredients are picked straight from the garden in the back yard. The children range in age from under two years and up to six years, and everyone can help. They’ve been practicing skills like: rinsing vegetables and fruits, tearing lettuce, measuring ingredients, carefully pouring or spooning ingredients into a bowl as well as stirring and mixing. They have also learned to knead dough, cut foods with a safe knife, assemble a dish and clean up after themselves.
While there will surely be messes, there is immense value in letting kids participate in cooking. And if that’s not enough, consider this: during the home visits, not one child hesitated before eating the vegetables they had helped prepare. Why not involve your child in cooking dinner tonight?
Families with young children are very busy people, indeed. It can be a real challenge finding the time to prepare healthy meals at home. However, with the rise in childhood obesity, it is increasingly important that young children receive proper nutrition and learn to love healthy food at an early age. Studies show that children have already formed their food preferences by age 5, so it is crucial to reach children from the very beginning with healthy messages around food.
For families enrolled in any of the 9 child care centers participating in Families, Farmers and Educators United, accessing healthy food has gotten a lot easier. Rather than making a separate trip to the grocery store with small children in tow, the 150 families who subscribed to Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) at their child care center this year simply pick up a weekly bag of fresh, local produce while they are picking up their child(ren).
This increase in fruit and vegetable purchasing not only encourages subscribers to feed their families healthier meals, it also increases the market for local farmers. This mutually beneficial relationship contributes to a healthier community and stronger local food system.
Time, however, is not always the only challenge for families wishing to increase their consumption of local foods. Cost is also seen as an obstacle for many families who are on a tight budget. CSA subscribers generally pay $15/week or $60/month. A household of 4 with an annual income between $10,000 and $30,000 generally spends between $50 and $55 on fruits and vegetables per month, according to the USDA (http://panplanrevision.mainepan-hw.wikispaces.net/file/view/USDA+Food+Stamp+Purchase+documentpdf.pdf). Although a few dollars a month can mean a lot for a family, it is a relatively small price to pay for increasing the freshness and nutrition of meals at home and preventing chronic disease from affecting loved ones. Subscribers also support the local economy.
One local farmer, Barbara Clark of Maggie's Farm, has also made it easier for families on a budget to participate by becoming a SNAP retailer. SNAP is the program that provides food assistance for families, and was formerly referred to as food stamps. Clark's effort allows families enrolled in SNAP to use those benefits to pay for their weekly CSA share. This uncommon and progressive step made by Maggie's Farm may well serve as a model for other farmers to involve a broader segment of the population in local food and health.
With dedicated farmers, passionate early educators and enthusiastic families, the Families, Farmers and Educators United program is leading the way to promoting health in the early years and contributing to the community-wide effort toward a stronger local food system.