Extension School Gardening in Broward County

Extension School Gardening in Broward County 
By Brenda Marty Jimenez, Family and Consumer Sciences Agent, and Lisa Gonzalez, Broward Food Systems Specialist

There are approximately 260,000 Broward County residents who receive food stamps through SNAP (Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program). The Broward UF/IFAS Extension Family Nutrition Program’s (FNP) goal is to educate the county’s SNAP-eligible population about good nutrition, physical activity, gardening, and healthy eating on a budget. In addition to educational programs with adults, FNP staff works directly in schools to implement evidence-based nutrition education curricula. During the 2016-2017 school year FNP staff provided 10,667 students with more than 20,220 minutes of nutrition education. Thus far during the 2017-2018 school year, FNP has already reached 3,200 students across Broward County.

Broward FNP staff work together with the Broward food systems specialist to implement policy, systems, and environmental (PSE) approaches aimed at increasing access to and consumption of fresh fruit and vegetables among students participating in FNP nutrition education programs at Title 1 schools. The food systems specialist helps teachers establish an edible school garden to reinforce the link between gardening and nutrition. The food systems specialist also partners with other community agencies and UF/IFAS faculty and staff to provide teacher trainings on creating and managing school garden programs. Gardening provides an opportunity to connect with food and impact nutritional intake. In fact, recent research suggests that students who receive both nutrition education classes and participate in gardening activities are even more likely to consume healthy foods (Langellotto and Gupta, 2012; Savoie Roskos, 2017). School gardening and nutrition education are a great pair of educational tools. 

Here are some of the gardening impacts that have occurred in Broward thus far during the 2017-2018 school year:

In October 2017, the food systems specialist, a history teacher from Anabel C Perry K-8 School, and two eighth-grade classes built additional raised beds for their school garden. The teacher herself was educated at FNP’s Gardening for Nutrition Training held at the Broward Extension office.  She was inspired to engage her classes with the school garden and to incorporate gardening into her history lessons.  School garden’s offer a great opportunity to enhance learning by providing a practical, hands-on application of academic concepts.  FNP hopes to build upon these successes in the coming year by bringing the Youth Understanding MyPlate (YUM) curriculum to elementary students during the spring of 2018. 

Colbert Elementary Magnet School has a vibrant school garden enjoyed by many students and supported by FNP and the food system specialist. Students from prekindergarten through fifth grade are engaged in the school garden and each grade has one to three raised beds to plant and utilize. In addition to the school garden, FNP provides nutrition education to students in the classroom using YUM curriculum.
 
FNP plays a large role in supporting enhanced nutrition at Sheridan Park Elementary School too. FNP program assistants have already provided YUM nutrition lessons to 372 students this school year. The food systems specialist has worked with the school garden champion to procure and plan the school garden. On November 20, the food systems specialist and an FNP program assistant, Miss B., worked with seven classes at Sheridan Park Elementary School to plant five new raised beds. One of the second-grade students engaged in planting exclaimed, “Miss B., this is the BEST day ever!” This complemented the three raised beds planted earlier this school year. Students were thrilled to plant a vegetable garden alongside their FNP program assistant and to make a connection between the nutrition education they are receiving and the school garden.
 
The food systems specialist and the Holy Cross Hospital Grow Together coordinator are collaborating with Broward County educators to provide training related to youth gardening. On October 21 the food systems specialist gave a brief presentation to 100 childcare providers attending Holy Cross Hospital’s Gardening for Nutrition Training on UF/IFAS Extension and the benefits of partnering with the Family Nutrition Program. On January 8, 2018, the Food Systems Specialist plans to provide a gardening workshop at a Holy Cross Hospital led school garden training for public school teachers.

The Broward agent, food system specialist, and FNP staff work collaboratively with community partners affiliated by geographic proximity and SNAP-ed interest, together addressing gardening issues affecting the well-being and environment of targeted Broward SNAP-ed clientele. These partnerships are a powerful means for bringing about behavioral changes that improve the health of the community and its citizens. 
 
References:

Langellotto, Gail and Gupta, Abha. (2012). “Gardening Increases Vegetable Consumption in School-aged Children: A Meta-analytical Synthesis.” Hort Technology 22(4).

Savoie Roskos, Mateja R. (2017). “Increasing Fruit and Vegetable Intake Among Children and Youth Through Gardening-Based Interventions: A Systematic Review.” Nutrition, Dietetics, and Food Sciences Faculty Publications. Paper 859. http://digitalcommons.usu.edu/nfs_facpub/859