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  Head Start Garden  
 

 

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Cayuga/Seneca Community Action Agency is honored to have been selected as a recipient of this year’s New York State Head Start Association Mini-Grant Award for our Head Start Garden-to-Table Project. Through this grant, the Agency seeks to expand its urban gardening initiatives by engaging our Head Start children and their families in experiencing a complete garden-to-table cycle.


image_003 The children began the cycle by starting a variety of seeds, including tomatoes, squash and peas, in the classroom in early March, 2012. Seedlings were grown on window sills and monitored until they were ready for transplanting into the garden.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Children from various age groups transplanted the seedlings outdoors on May 1, 2012, at which time they were photographed for a feature in the local newspaper, The Citizen (see below). They were very comfortable delving their hands into soil, playing with earthworms, preparing seed beds, and tenderly transplanting seedlings. image_005

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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The children are shown here transplanting squash seedlings, and then protecting the seedlings with a Wall-O-Water (the green plastic tower shown below, right) – a mini-greenhouse structure that protects seedlings from fluctuations in temperature.

 

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Staff members have been working closely with Head Start students to cultivate, harvest, prepare and consume the fresh vegetables they have been helping to grow. Excess vegetables from the Head Start garden have also been shared with parents during home visits by staff.

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Most notably, Head Start teachers have noticed a measurable impact on the children’s affinity for fresh produce, primarily because the children are eagerly and entirely invested in the full garden-to-table cycle. The Head Start Cook, Steven Plantz, has been incorporating fresh produce in the meals he serves to children at the Auburn site of the Agency’s Head Start program. Steve, teachers and staff members have been documenting the increasing affinity for fresh produce generated from the garden and the fact that the children seem to enjoy their vegetables in their simplest, unseasoned form.

Steven Plantz is currently preparing various recipes that he has shared with our Head Start children, using fresh produce they have grown and harvested. For a listing of recipes, please view the C/SCAA Head Start Garden-to-Table Cookbook. These recipes are also being shared with parents of our Head Start students, who have been fortunate to share in the bounty produced from our garden. Some of these parents have been so positively impacted by this project, that a couple of them have actually begun community gardening projects of their own.

In order to ensure consistency in accessing fresh produce throughout the year, the Agency has been practicing crop rotations to work with the distinct seasons in Central New York. Cool-weather lettuces, radishes, peas and spinach were planted in seed  beds in early spring, and then replaced with heat-loving cucumbers, squash and tomatoes during the summer. During the fall, staff and students will be planting cold-hardy seeds directly into the various planting beds in the Head Start Garden, under the protective cover of a low tunnel.

A low tunnel is a low-lying structure comprised of galvanized steel conduit that is bent to form a hoop. The

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hoop is staked into the ground, and then covered by two layers of fabric – spun-bonded polypropylene and greenhouse plastic. The two layers provide a protective covering for a much smaller version of a greenhouse, which provides a cost-effective method for growing cold-hardy crops through the fall and winter.

The low tunnels are part of the Agency’s attempt at addressing food security in a sustainable way. The Agency is also the recipient of a grant from the Walmart Foundation to address hunger relief via a high tunnel system, to grow larger quantities of fresh produce throughout the year. For more information about this project, visit the site directly at http://www.cscaa.com/food.html.

We are fortunate to have secured funding for this project through the New York State Head Start Association. We hope to promote a greater awareness of how food is produced, and also demonstrate that fresh food production is still possible during the fall and winter months. In addition, we hope to impact childhood nutrition by increasing access to fresh, healthy produce for our Head Start students and their families.

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Head Start Garden-To-Table Project

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The project is designed to engage Head Start and Early Head Start children and their families in experiencing a complete garden-to-table cycle.  The children start with planting a variety of seeds in the classroom in the winter and then transplant the seedlings to the low tunnel gardens in early spring. Pictured are plants already sprouting.  The vegetables are cultivated, harvested, prepared and consumed by the children as they grew.  Continued plans to promote healthy eating habits and the awareness of the garden-to-table cycle include an online, interactive gardening and recipe book with pictures created with the assistance of the children.  Fresh produce from the garden, along with recipe cards, is also made available to Head Start families and customers of the Agency's Food Pantry.

 

 

 
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phone: 315-255-1703
   
         
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