In 2004 I took a job as a local Community Health Educator. As part of my job, I went into mobile home communities and met kids after school. I would play active games with them, teach them a nutrition lesson and feed them a healthy snack. It was always my goal to give them a great experience and also give them a chance to try new foods. Over several years of teaching kids the importance of eating fresh fruits and vegetables and having them respond with, “My mom won’t buy that” or “That’s too expensive,” I wanted to do something about it. Even though hearing that was frustrating to me, I understood. Think about it – if you can buy a box or bag of something that won’t go bad over fresh produce that might last a week, what are you going to buy when you’re stretching every dollar? I began wondering what would happen if I was able to take away every barrier to eating fresh produce.
So, that first year I started growing a garden in my backyard. I didn’t really have any formal gardening experience, but really believed I could do this. I put out notes to my friends and neighbors and asked them to donate any extra produce. After work, once a week, I would go to the same neighborhood where I had been educating for years and set up a farmers market. The residents were awesome! They were grateful (even when I had only 15 snap peas) and even brought plastic bags to share with others. Partway into that first year, I received a $300 grant and built four new beds in my backyard.
Well, we’ve grown! Since that first year, we’ve donated more than 4,500 pounds of produce to an average of 45 families per week! The first three years were great and for two of those years, I had the luxury of relying on Healthy Kids Club for funding. Now we’re getting even bigger and are striking out on our own. My hope now is to teach kids about gardening and food. To connect kids to the world around them and help people eat healthier.
Thanks for joining me on this journey!