Big Brothers Big Sisters nets nutrition grant
By ANGIE HAFLICH
Big Brothers Big Sisters of Finney and Kearny counties recently was awarded a $52,000 grant that will go toward providing both gardening and nutrition education for area children involved in the summer school and after-school programs at Horace Good Middle School and Charles O. Stones Intermediate Center.
The 21st Century Community Learning Center grant, provided by the U.S. Department of Education, awards federal funds for programs that provide quality academic and enrichment opportunities to children outside of the regular school day.
"The grant is to continue the after-school programs at Horace Good and Charles Stones throughout the summer and then add in the gardening and nutrition part of it for those kids," BBBS Executive Director Tammy Davis said. "It's with the school district, so we wrote the grant and partnered with the school district to do it, and the school board approved it at their meeting last Monday and signed off on it."
Davis said that the grant will be used for several projects, including a garden to be located at East Garden Village mobile home park.
"Robert Martin, who owns East Garden Village trailer park, has really been doing a lot to work with community groups and the city ... to kind of make improvements out there to that area, and he's been taking some of those vacant trailers out and getting some of the stray dogs taken out of there," Davis said. "And he was willing to let us put this big garden in out there and do all this stuff. He really did a lot of things out there, and he really cares about the families and kids that live out there."
Martin also has allowed BBBS to hold one of its summer playground programs in the area for more than 10 years.
Some time in April, students from the intermediate center's after-school program, most of whom live at the mobile home park, will begin work on the garden, along with local Farm Bureau board members who have offered use of their tractors.
"The farmer bureau members offered to volunteer their time and resources to help put the garden in, and we'll have the kids and the families help with that," Davis said. "We really want to give the kids an opportunity to do something outside of their homes with their families. It's open to everybody who lives there."
She said that it also will be an activity that BBBS volunteers can do with their little brothers and sisters.
In addition to the garden at the East Garden Village mobile home park, Davis said that kids involved in the Garden City Recreation Commission's Summer Playground Program also will be able to help with two bed gardens at Scout and Finnup parks.
Donna Gerstner, GCRC assistant superintendent, said the gardens at those two sites will be standing garden beds that can be moved or removed if need be. She also said that she is excited for the kids to have this opportunity.
"I think it's great that the kids will get to learn about gardening, They have fun seeing things grow and how fun it is to eat something you grow," she said.
As part of the nutrition program, master gardeners will be providing lessons about gardening to the kids, including the best time to plant certain fruits and vegetables, as well as how to preserve those foods for later consumption.
Additionally, a GCRC staff member will help the kids with individualized fitness and nutrition.
"We wrote into the grant to provide nutrition education to kids at an early age to start them off right. It will teach them how to incorporate fresh fruits and vegetables to get the most money out of your budget and why it's important to eat healthy and to exercise," Davis said.
She said that the hope is that the knowledge that the kids gain about gardening and nutrition, along with involvement by their families in helping with the garden, will translate into healthier eating habits for everyone.