Fostering Fun Learning Experiences Between Kids and Local Foods

 

Nelsy Dominguez

 

There are few things as natural as children digging in the dirt. Witnessing the delight of my six-year old and her friends playing in the garden attests to the significance of this simple joy. Gardening and culinary arts combine fun with purpose. At any age, gardens are a fun-filled educational cornucopia.

When schools and after-school programs create opportunities to extend the classroom outside and incorporate a school garden, culinary arts and nutrition as part of the experience, the impact is both immediate and long lasting. A prime example of this is Farm to Table’s Farm to School program, which, in recent years, has taken place at schools and learning centers in many regions of New Mexico. The program fosters the development of healthier eating habits by supporting activities that make critical links between children, their families, schools and agriculture.

We envision vegetable gardens in every schoolyard so that all children have the opportunity to experience the joy of planting seeds and nurturing them into healthy plants—real live food—that they can pick and eat,” says Le Adams, who directs Farm to Table’s Farm to School Program. In the past two years, FTT provided $26,000 to 32 educational projects that tackled diverse activities such as designing fruit and vegetable beds, soil preparation, digging, planting, watering, cooking, tasting and preserving, along with field trips to local farms. Besides facilitating healthier eating habits, these activities are entryways to build core competencies in areas such as chemistry, biology, math, language arts and environmental science.

While the value of the program is clear, finding resources to make it possible is a yearly challenge for the nonprofit organization. “We’ve been very fortunate that the Nirvana Mañana Institute has supported this project for the last two years,” says Elizabeth Hetrick, Farm to Table’s Chair. “Looking forward, we continue to seek donor-partners to invest in making a difference in how kids experience the growing and tasting of food that they themselves have a hand in growing.”

 

 

Nelsy Dominguez is the director of Philanthropic and Community Engagement at Farm to Table. nelsy@farmtotablenm.org, www.farmtotablenm.org