Child development agency's leader describes new local food effort

About 500 Lawrence children and their families will benefit from a two-year, $100,000 grant that was awarded this week.

The Douglas County Child Development Association, in partnership with the Success by 6 Coalition of Douglas County, received the grant to make locally grown foods more available to children ages 5 and under and their families.

“The less time between the garden and the table, the more nutrition you are going to get in that food, and so the more that we can do to get people in the habit of growing their own food or getting it locally, the better."

— Anna Jenny, DCCDA executive director

Tomatoes ripen on a vine.

Tomatoes ripen on a vine. by Kevin Anderson

The effort is called Families, Farmers, & Educators United for Healthy Child Development and it will bring together local producers, child care providers and families.

“It’s a focus on relationships because relationships are what’s going to sustain it,” Jenny said. “We can give people a lot of stuff over the next two years, but once the stuff is gone it will go away unless they’ve built a relationship.”

The project will hook up three child care centers with a Consumer Supported Agriculture group, commonly called CSA, so the children can eat fresh produce. Families will be able to access CSA the following year.

The project also will provide 25 home-based child care programs with supplies and the expertise to start a garden in their back yard or in a community garden.

Besides planting gardens, the project will teach child care providers and families how to produce and cook with local produce. It also will implement a child care curriculum called Food is Elementary, which focuses on improved food choices.

Jenny said the centers, homes or local CSAs have not been chosen yet.

First, they plan to hire a full-time and a part-time position to help with the project. She hopes to have those positions filled in January.

The goal is to start planting seeds in small beds in February and March, and then to get the gardens started in April and May.

“Kids just love to eat stuff that they’ve grown,” Jenny said. “They get so excited about things they wouldn’t want to eat if it came from a grocery store, but if it came from their garden — they watched it grow, picked it, washed it and cut it — that makes it very special.”

Lawrence was among seven Kansas communities that received a total $500,000 from the United Methodist Health Ministry Fund to prevent obesity in young children through increased physical activity and better nutrition.

Tagged: Success By 6 Coalition of Douglas County, children, Douglas County Child Development Association, nutrition, CSA, local food, farmers

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