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How Does a 10-acre Farm Improve the Health of Local Youth?

It’s amazing how powerful a role novelty plays in learning, at any age. We have all been told that exercise is good for our bodies, but it wasn’t until we saw those fresh Nike sneakers or watched Serena Williams take tennis to a new level, that we were excited to get moving. In joining the Project GROWS team, I have found this same phenomenon is true of kids response to health education.

Students can be told the importance of eating vegetables by a teacher or a parent and while that is a vital step in the process of valuing personal health, the sensation of taking a bite of a vegetable immediately after pulling it out of the ground puts our idea of food in a whole new light. Watching as students put seeds to soil or discover what that vegetable they’ve always known looks like when it is growing has transformed my interpretation of what it means to educate. Where I formerly thought that to teach was simply to talk, I now understand it as a shared experience with peers. We all eat vegetables in one form or another, even if it is no more than the corn in our sodas, and deserve access to knowledge about an essential source of life.

So what does a 10-acre farm in Verona do to improve the health of its local youth? Having witnessed the shock and awe in kids faces upon washing off a radish and the color becoming brighter than a stoplight, I believe this 10-acre farm allows local youth the opportunity to further understand the world they live in and the bodies they feed.

In serving as a part of the Food Access team at Project GROWS, I’ve come to firmly believe in the value of our existing programming and have formed an ongoing list of potential opportunities to serve the community around us. We manage Farmer’s Markets to increase local SNAP and WIC redemption, teach community cooking and health-based classes, provide in-school vegetable tastings, the list goes on. With every opportunity we have to serve the greater Augusta and Waynesboro communities, new doors open to members of the community we have not yet reached. Having a home base at the Project GROWS farm, an office and cooking space, would allow the Project GROWS team to greatly increase the number of community members served. Much of the Food Access team’s time consists of traveling from space to space to transport the resources necessary to carry out programming. Something as simple as having one central space to store our materials would transform our ability to serve the people around us. On a greater scale, this barn will allow Project GROWS’ identity in the community to grow as a refuge; a place to be, and learn and grow.

We’ve seen the ways that our work directly impacts youth, and we invite you to join with us! If you would like to support us consider pledging to our Barn-Raising Campaign today!

Audrey Carter, Community Food Projects Coordinator, AMI Phase II Fellow

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