'Ears to You': Little Braxton Jefferson reaps what he sowed.
Stemming from the premise that preschoolers involved in the planting and harvesting of vegetables will be more likely to eat them, a vegetable garden project at Alabama A&M University’s Child Development Center (CDC) is reaping fresh vegetables and a hardy interest in childhood nutrition.
The two-year project is being funded by the Evans-Allen 1890 Program through the National Institute of Food and Agriculture. Project Director Allison Parker-Young says the vegetable garden project allows preschoolers to become involved with the growing, picking and cooking process. The bottom line, she adds, are two-, three- and four-year-olds who are much more likely to eat vegetables.
Children attending the Center this summer are seeing the green and lush results of what classmates in the spring planted back in late April and May, says Shelia Foster, director of the CDC. The project’s success entailed the participation of not only some 19 preschoolers but Family and Consumer Sciences instructor Eunice Tibbs, and CDC teachers Allean Sutton, Robin Bodrick and Johna Benson, as well.
As preschoolers and their parents enter and leave CDC facilities on the east side of the George Washington Carver Complex, they see large, yellow wagons teeming with the healthy stems and foliage of the summer’s most popular vegetables and herbs. This list includes basil, beets, white and yellow corn, eggplant, green beans, okra, parsley, sage, acorn and butternut squash, Swiss chard, tomatoes and even miniature watermelon.
“The children are very excited about the garden,” states Foster, adding that many of the vegetables in the garden are already a part of the children’s meals during the weekdays. “But for many, the garden allows them the very first view of the actual vegetable before it hits their plate.”
Dr. Parker-Young, an alumna of AAMU and the University of Minnesota, also acknowledges the role played by the locally-owned Morris Greenhouses, which donated several plants to counter those that did not survive early in the planting stage. She adds that the ongoing learning process carefully designed for the children includes songs about plants, the visual identification of plants, workshops for parents, and liberal use of the website myplate.gov.
“Before long, the children (who enroll in CDC’s fall term) will begin working on the fall garden,” Parker-Young says. “The fall crops will feature collards, cabbage, turnips, spinach and lettuce. This is a great age to get them involved.”
For garden photos, click HERE.
- Jerome Saintjones