Craig kids grow through gardening with Boys & Girls Club, MRH
Teaming up with Memorial Regional Health, the Boys & Girls Club of Craig has spent the warm summer months engaging Craig youth in the value of growing their own food and the importance of a healthy lifestyle.
With summer camp beginning as early as June 2019, club members between the ages of 6 to 14 have spent up to two hours each week gardening under the guidance of health professionals from MRH. The garden has produced tomatoes, zucchinis, green peppers, and a variety of herbs that the club members have all had the opportunity to sample in educational taste tests.
“I think the kids have learned some new things and have enjoyed learning more about where their food comes from — it brings a connection to their food,” said MRH Physical Therapist Carol Sitlington, whose role is to engage the club members in various forms of physical activity that test motor skills, visual processing, balance and coordination, and more.
Each session begins with students watering the garden, followed by lessons and activities. During taste tests, club members are instructed to close their eyes as they sample a variety of foods from the garden. They must then guess what each food is in an exercise of their senses and language faculties. Each taste test is then followed up by a brief lecture about each food.
“We talk a lot about fruits and vegetables and how to identify them,” said MRH Dietitian Maddy Jourgensen. “We’re really trying to get them exposed to nutrition.”
Alongside all these activities, each club member has access to an optional health screening with the on-site occupational, physical, and speech therapists, as well as dietitians from MRH.
However, none of that would have been possible without a grant from the Colorado Garden Foundation, as well as the Craig Hotshots who built the garden beds, the Duran & Pearce Contractors who supplied the dirt, Samuelson’s True Value Hardware, and several key members at MRH and the Boys & Girls Club.
The project started when Lead MRH Occupational Therapist Susan Jones came to MRH Grant Writer Ryan Lucas about ways to fund MRH community outreach, upon which, Lucas discovered the Colorado Garden Foundation — a not-for-profit corporation that has awarded over 10 million dollars to Colorado nonprofits and government entities that seek funding for horticulture related projects.
This spring, MRH was awarded a $2,500 grant from the Colorado Garden Foundation. From there, MRH reached out to the Boys & Girls Club to begin a community garden project for Moffat County children during the summer of 2019.
“It is awesome to see the kids’ involvement — they have all of the zucchinis named,” said Kari Zimmerman, unit director of the Craig Boys & Girls Club.
As the summer comes to a close, so too does the community garden. The last day of the project is Thursday, Aug. 16.
Jones said that they are considering reapplying for another grant from the Colorado Garden Foundation to fund future community garden projects, and that she looks forward to a continued partnership between MRH and the Boys & Girls Club.