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Harvesting Health All Summer Long

Posted by Dr. Patty Bennett, Mid-Atlantic Regional Administrator, Food and Nutrition Service in Food and Nutrition Nutrition Security
Jul 06, 2022
A bright yellow sign hanging on a wire fence that is covered with green plants. It has been decorated by kids with multi-colored paint and reads “Learning Garden-Neighborhood Resource Garden.”

The Food and Nutrition Service’s Turnip the Beet awards recognize outstanding summer meal program sponsors for going above and beyond, ensuring children receive high quality meals in a fun, safe and healthy learning environment when school is out. These nutritious meals help keep children healthy all summer and ready to learn when school resumes.

I’m proud to say that one of these awards recently went to Neighborhood Resource Center of Greater Fulton (NRC), a program sponsor in Richmond, Virginia. Tucked away in the center of a bustling neighborhood, NRC centers around a fully functioning urban farm called the “Learning Garden.”

Full of honeybees and butterflies, the learning garden is a place to plant, harvest, and eat fresh produce and herbs. The garden is permaculture, fully organic and yields hundreds of pounds of produce annually. NRC incorporates the bounty into their USDA Summer Food Service Program, Child and Adult Care Food Program, and into their monthly food pantry delivery.

Kids visit the garden and learn how tiny seeds grow into tasty veggies they enjoy in their meals. Last year, NRC served a preschool, kindergarten and three sponsored sites nearby. Menu items included food easily be picked up by little hands. NRC used a family style food service model, allowing kids to serve themselves, assisted by staff encouraging them to try new foods while fostering a sense of wellness and community starting at a young age.

“We recognize that access to food is a human right,” said NRC Executive Director Breanne Armbrust. “Our role is to ensure neighbors--especially youth--have access to nutritionally dense food that's prepared in a culturally responsive way. We supplement our Summer Food Service meals with produce community members helped us grow and harvest--we consider this to be a beautiful expression of mutual aid.”

Three young children bent over a raised garden and closely inspecting a chives plant with purple flowers