The second round of the Massachusetts Farming Reinforces Education and Student Health grant funding was announced by the Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education Office for Food and Nutrition Programs.

One of the recipients included Holyoke Chicopee Springfield Head Start which is a multi-service agency, providing comprehensive programs, services and support to local communities, families and children, according to its website.

Some of the family and parent programs include cooking, money management, parenting classes and a healthy relationships program.

This funding enables schools and early education sites to purchase and prepare more locally grown Massachusetts food, invest in farm to school efforts and provide students with experiential learning opportunities inside and outside the classroom.

HCS Head Start Mentor Coach Heidi Fogg explained how the grants will be used.
Head Start has already started garden beds at two sites and partnered with local farmers and the Massachusetts Audubon Society to assist with the gardens.

“Massachusetts Audubon will be providing professional development opportunities to support teachers in improving healthy eating and gardening. They will also be supporting the classroom curriculum to expand on nutritional education and events,” Fogg said.

Some future family events will help promote healthy eating and help service the information of local farmers and markets they can visit.

Fogg thinks one of the most beneficial things of the gardens will be allowing students to see their produce in the garden being used.

She said, “What is really interesting is we’re going to be using food from the garden, vegetables, fruit, and we’re going to bring it into live cooking demonstrations in the classroom so the children will actually see what they’ve grown and then it will be turned a dessert, side or meal.”

Fogg added that HCS Head Start introduced the gardens and allowing the children to pick the vegetables for around three years, but this grant will allow them to take it a step further.

“We will be including families, we’re going to be creating newsletters to send home to the family with recipes and letting the families know what is going on and the garden process is developing in the individual classrooms,” Fogg added.

The Office for Food and Nutrition Programs awarded a total of $400,000 to 14 K-12 school districts and 9 childcare centers through the competitive grant process.
Fogg added how a portion of this money will be beneficial to the families at HCS Head Start.

She said, “I believe it will not only be beneficial to the children but the families because in some instances it’s introducing new fruits and vegetables and it’s also giving the children that independent excitement of watching their fruits and vegetables grow and being able to create something with it.”

HCS Head Start currently has hydroponic garden beds, outdoor planters and outdoor gardens which shows the kids all different ways to garden, according to Fogg.

She said, “The experience the kids are all getting is a variety of not only the gardening but the diverse gardening that can be successful whether you leave in an apartment, whether you live next to a farm. Introducing those different levels in a natural environment for them to see is something I am excited about because that is something they can take home.”

Fogg said that she was appreciative for the center receiving the grant and is excited to see how the funds will be used.

“I think it’s fantastic because we are really a big family engagement in educating and guiding parents and this is just another step to intertwining and supporting the children and the families that we serve in a healthy positive way,” Fogg added.

tgarnet@thereminder.com | + posts