Farm program connects kids with local food

Photo by Pat Sunderland Richard Flores shares flyfishing techniques with participants in the Delta County Farm to School program. At a separate table, students practiced fly tying with Randy Fender of Gunnison River Expeditions. The summer program offers

Through the Delta County Farm to School Program, learning is continuing through the summer, with lessons on gardening, agriculture, and health and wellness.

Program coordinator Angela Flores said classes are open to all students and community members.

"The purpose is to raise garden and agriculture awareness, as well as to inspire healthy lifestyles for all," Flores said. "The funds raised from the summer classes will help fund our AmeriCorps garden coordinators and provide essential resources to help sustain school garden programming for eight schools and many more children around the district."

Gardens have been established at eight schools districtwide, and in many cases are complemented by garden clubs. Three AmeriCorps garden coordinators helped update older gardens and build new gardens where needed.

Flores said the students will be growing vegetables to share with Food for Thought families. The Food for Thought program, coordinated by Vision Charter Academy, provides families with supplemental food on weekends and holidays.

Through this community service project, young gardeners will come to understand and appreciate where their food comes from and how they can grow it on their own. Hopefully, a bountiful harvest will also provide an opportunity for students to hone their business skills at area farmers' markets.

Funded through a Colorado Health Foundation grant, the Farm to School program works to promote healthy lifestyles with hands-on agriculture and nutrition education, create connections between classrooms, communities and local farms through field trips and summer programs, and increase access to healthy, local foods for all families.

The school district is partnering with Mountain Roots Food Project to develop the program as a means to address nutrition education and food insecurity issues in the schools.

"Our program seeks to inspire healthy lifestyles by providing agriculture and nutrition education for students and families, provide access to healthy foods for all students and families in need, and connect schools and communities with Delta County's rich farming and agricultural heritage," Flores said.

Twice-weekly classes rotate between Garnet Mesa Elementary, Lincoln Elementary and Hotchkiss K-8. Each class begins with a fun group activity and ends with a snack made with fresh foods from local farms or school gardens.

Local experts and Master Gardeners are invited to share their knowledge with program participants. The June schedule includes sessions on pollinator/butterfly gardens, back porch gardening, gardening techniques, sun print garden art, and bees and honey making. Registration information can be found online at http://sites.google.com/deltaschools.com/farmtoschool.

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