Most can agree on the importance of teaching children where food comes from. In recent decades, our society has become more and more disconnected from the foods we eat and the farm to fork process in whole. As time moves forward, society relies more and more on large-scale, even global food systems to feed populations. The need to reconnect with our land and the food that it provides has never been more important!
For the past two years, the Taking Root TN program has built garden beds at over 20 childcare sites in Tennessee in hopes of reinforcing that connection with our youngest generation. When a child plays a role in growing their own food, they are also much more likely to eat it. With obesity and heart disease rates reaching all-time highs, increased fruit and vegetable consumption is just what the doctor ordered. But what if a child care site or a family for that matter, does not have the time or perhaps the space to manage their own garden? In our fast paced society, that scenario is very likely and according to our own survey data from 2015/2016, “limited space” and “time constraints” where reported as the leading reasons why our participating child care sites had not already implemented a garden program.
“When we looked at this problem, we realized the solution could be much simpler than we thought.” What if we created mini-garden lessons and activities that required a smaller commitment, yet still brought the same fundamental principles that our raised bed garden bed program provides.
Instead of expecting every child care site or family to tend to a full-fledged garden, we can create a series of fun and engaging year-round classroom activities that make children excited about growing their own food!
In 2016, Our Daily Bread of TN hired Candayace Howard to help manage a case load of child care providers, and to also help spearhead an extension of Taking Root Tennessee, a brand new pilot garden program serving greater Memphis and Shelby County. Candayace got right to work developing the program. The first pilot activity is a “Bean Growing Project”, where child care sites in cooperation with the University of Tennessee Extension: Master Gardeners provide children with a kid-friendly lesson that allow preschoolers to grow their own beans, learn where they come from, and how most people eat them.
The children each get to build their own mini greenhouses, germinate their bean seeds and journal their beans progress at it grows into a seedling. They even write pen pal letters and send pictures of their plants to children at other participating child care sites. This reinforces the lessons with their peers and builds interpersonal skills in the process.
(Check back soon for more updates and get a sneak peak at the some of the other activities planned for 2017!)