All Things Green
Here at Mayes County HOPE, our All Things Green Program is reshaping the way we think about food, health, and community engagement. This multifaceted approach encompasses farm-to-school programs, nutrition education, community gardens, and addressing food insecurity, all working in harmony to promote healthier and more sustainable lifestyles.
However, the mission extends beyond education and gardening. It includes addressing the pressing issue of food insecurity, where many families struggle to secure regular, nutritious meals. Collaborations with local organizations are forged to ensure that no one goes hungry, particularly vulnerable children and families. The synergy between these efforts means that surplus produce from community gardens, for instance, can be distributed to help combat food insecurity within the community.
In sum, the "all things green" position encompasses a holistic approach to nourishing both bodies and communities. By combining farm-to-school programs, nutrition education, community gardens, and targeted efforts to address food insecurity, communities are fostering healthier, more sustainable, and more resilient futures for all their members. This movement represents a shift towards a brighter, more interconnected, and more equitable food landscape.
Complementing farm-to-school programs is nutrition education. In classrooms and through the after school program, educators provide essential lessons on balanced diets, healthy food choices, and the science of nutrition. By equipping individuals, particularly children and families, with knowledge about food and gardening, nutrition education empowers them to make informed dietary decisions. Through hands-on cooking classes, interactive workshops, and engaging activities, participants develop a deeper understanding of the connections between food and well-being.
Sprouting up in neighborhoods and school campuses alike are community gardens, where residents and civic organizations collectively cultivate fruits, vegetables, herbs, and more. These gardens serve as both a source of fresh produce and a catalyst for community engagement. They offer an opportunity for individuals to reconnect with the earth, learn gardening skills, and share in the satisfaction of a successful harvest. Beyond providing access to nutritious foods, community gardens enhance green spaces, strengthen bonds among neighbors, and foster a sense of shared responsibility for the environment.
One pivotal aspect of this movement is farm-to-school programs. These programs bridge the gap between local farms and schools, bringing fresh, locally grown produce directly into the cafeteria. The benefits are manifold, as they not only promote healthier eating habits among students but also invigorate the local agricultural economy while reducing the environmental impact of long-distance food transportation. In practice, this involves providing gardens and curriculum for our schools where the students grow their own fruits, vegetables, and herbs that they incorporate into school meals. Additionally, educational efforts accompany these programs, ensuring that students understand the origins and nutritional value of the foods they consume.
HOPE is grateful to the Oliver Dewey Foundation for a grant that enabled us to purchase 3 school garden beds. Each bed is 4’x16’ and is a comfortable 2’ high for easy weeding.
The first bed was installed at Thunderbird Youth Academy as part of their seed to table curriculum and culinary education. Under the tutelage of Chef Mark, their culinary instructor, cadets learn to plant, grow, harvest, and prepare the produce from their gardens. Cadets and staff also reap the benefits of fresh, nutritious, healthy meals. Receiving their first bed started a landslide with the culinary program!!! Since then HOPE has provided a second bed, two herb beds and Chef Mark has been able to obtain two more beds as well as a greenhouse. That’s a total of 4 beds, 2 herb beds and a greenhouse! The culinary program is growing by leaps and bounds. We are so excited for all involved in this project!
The second bed was installed at Osage Elementary. Osage is a K-8 school and students were excited to be a part of the set up of the bed. They are using the bed as part of their science education. Thank you to the Cherokee Nation for partnering with us as well.
The third bed was installed at Chouteau-Mazie School. This is also a K-8 school and welcomed the opportunity to have another resource on their campus to use as a teaching component. The students were a vital part of the set up and had fun helping! The bed is already growing and producing yummy, healthy veggies!
The S.T.E.M. project at Lincoln Early Childhood Center is growing! The school garden has grown to 4 garden beds and includes a small indoor greenhouse. Lora Siever, our champion 4 year old teacher, has jumped in with both feet and her students are the beneficiaries. Lora with the support of her school principal, Mrs. Ballard, also includes her fellow teachers and their classrooms in the process.
The program uses computer based curriculum that is designed specifically for preschool age children. Lora is using the project to teach the growing cycle from seed to harvest. She then takes the harvest into the classroom for taste testing so the children can taste what hard work has produced.
Thank you Lora and Lincoln Early Childhood Center for being a part of HOPE Farm to School!!!
Hope partnered with Pryor Public Schools and their afterschool program to provide a culinary and nutrition education component. We spent 6 weeks at each elementary school-Roosevelt, Jefferson and Lincoln. Students were taught basic cooking skills, how to read nutritional labels, shopping on a budget and making healthy choices. The students prepared their own food and surprised themselves when they actually LIKED the healthy options, even the fresh veggies!
The students at Roosevelt got to showcase their knowledge for the Superintendent’s office staff and Lincoln invited parents to be a part of a family night event! HOPE is proud of the students and their accomplishments in the program!