- Author: Nancy R. Zumkeller
First harvest is always an exciting time when gardening, but this first harvest proved to be extra special for a group of women and their children at Fresno Rescue Mission's Rescue the Children residential treatment program. RTC is a protected, secure environment that provides emergency and long-term services to at-risk, abused, homeless, or previously incarcerated women or women with children. UC CalFresh Nutrition Education Program Fresno has been providing nutrition education to Rescue the Children for over five years and now garden education and support has been added to that collaboration. A conversation in a nutrition education class about the importance of fruits and vegetables led to the residents' expressing interest in gardening and asking how to grow your own vegetables. The UC CalFresh Garden Team leapt into action to collaborate with RTC residents to plan and implement a sustainable garden. This 12-18 month residential program for women and women with children continually receives new residents, but they all have the opportunity to learn and work in the garden and enjoy the fruits of their labor.
The women's prior experience with gardening was varied. Some shared fond memories of working in a garden with their grandparents or parents when they were children. Most had minimal experience but all were eager and willing to learn and work. UC CalFresh provided support through garden and nutrition education, seeds, seedlings and various garden supplies and tools. UC Master Gardener's were invited to collaborate. They were introduced to the women of RTC and provided weekly garden education classes ranging in topics from basic gardening, irrigation, maintenance and composting. A Master Gardener even donated several gardening books to the RTC library for the residents to refer to for guidance and research including a copy of the California Master Gardener Handbook, which is considered the definitive guide to best practices and advice for gardeners throughout the West.
The facility had ample space for a garden, but there was still lots of work to do such as clearing weeds, un-stacking the raised garden beds that had been empty for a long time, and understanding how to work the existing drip irrigation system that had not been utilized to its full capabilities. Finally, in September 2017 the garden was planted. Radishes, spinach, potatoes, carrots, and squash were some of the vegetables that were planted. Cilantro and rosemary was also planted in the garden beds. Although some beds produced more than others, all the residents enjoyed sharing this experience with each other as well as with their children. “I loved coming out here in the evening with my son to pull weeds and check on the garden. It's so peaceful out here,” stated one of the residents. Another resident compared growing a garden to nurturing a child. She stated you care for and love your child by tending to their needs the same way you would for the plants in the garden.
Learning all about drip irrigation from a Master Gardener
Planted and labeled!
The farm to table movement has definitely become a part of Rescue the Children's resident's daily lives. In addition to the garden, a composting area has been maintained with the community kitchen scraps. Learning about composting has been practical and useful. Many women stated they had never realized how kitchen scraps could be beneficial to a garden. The first harvest in November provided many delicious vegetables that the kitchen staff used in preparation for the Thanksgiving meal. Everything harvested from the garden is used in the community kitchen for all to enjoy. This hands-on learning experience has impacted not only over 35 adult residents of RTC but over 20 school-aged children as well. The hard work and rewards of the garden are providing a valuable experience for everyone. The lessons on nutrition and gardening will be remembered long after the women have graduated from RTC. They have acquired the necessary skills and knowledge to maintain a healthy lifestyle for themselves and their families.
Composting bins ready for kitchen scraps!/span>
- Author: Amber Viveros
I first heard about UC CalFresh while I was volunteering with a local organization. They had a booth at a community event and I learned so much about what the program does for Fresno County. I was interested with the work that they do so I visited the UC CalFresh website and contacted the volunteer coordinator. They were still altering the MEET Volunteer program, so I was put on the contact list for volunteer candidates. I was told I would be contacted at the end of the spring semester which was around graduation. When the MEET program was ready, I filled out an application and attended the orientation in June 2017. During the orientation staff members mentioned that there were open positions to be part of the UC CalFresh team and they encouraged us to apply. I knew this would be a great opportunity for me because I had recently graduated, and I could get a lot of experience. I applied for the position in July and I was called for an interview in August. I continued volunteering during this time to complete my hours and to also get more familiar with the work that was done around the office. I was offered the position in September and began working in mid-October. I have enjoyed working here and I am looking forward to all the positive changes we will bring to Fresno County.
- Author: Evelyn Morales
During my rotation at University of California CalFresh Nutrition Education Program, I had a great time and learned about fun and engaging ways to provide nutrition education to children and adults. I like what this program does for our community since nutrition education is essential to living a healthy life and prevent many diet-related diseases.
During my first week, I had the opportunity to create a Nutrition Corner for children about whole grains and write a blog about healthy treats for children on Halloween. I learned that using straightforward terms, pictures that represent the audience, and colorful and attractive items are a must on these projects to attract readers and accomplish the purpose of creating those tools.
That week I also got to attend the Walk to School Day in Madera. An event like this takes time and communication to coordinate. Public authorities, schools, and Public Health Department of Madera worked together with UC CalFresh to make this event remarkably fun for children while promoting physical activity. I helped the team organize the games and encourage children to be more active. I also learned that as nutrition and health educator, my job is to care about my community and maintain their health in all aspects, and part of that was helping children to cross the streets safely.
Teaching children from different grades, from Pre-K to 4th grade, and participating in two adult classes were amazing experiences during my second week. During college, I mostly worked with the adult population, but working with children is quite different. I did not know how to present nutrition information to children, especially younger ones because they get bored or easily distracted. I learned by observing nutrition educators, Carissa and Mishelle. I realized that working with children is really fun. One has to be very creative to teach the nutrition information in a simple, but engaging and enjoyable way. I was amazed at the number of teaching tools that UC CalFresh has, like interactive posters to food models, which are very helpful to share your message. Also, I discovered that being very specific with instructions is vital when working with children since all of them are very energetic and want to participate in all activities.
Finally, on my last day, I got to teach a MyPlate nutrition lesson on my own to Hispanic adults. My knowledge, experience, and background helped me to successfully communicate and teach the lesson. I felt great when some of the adults thanked me and told me that they had learned a lot, and were enthusiastic about applying that information to eat healthier.
Providing nutrition education to members of my community has been one of the most rewarding experiences as an intern. Knowing that children are receiving nutrition education so early in life, as well as teaching about health and nutrition to parents makes me realized the importance of programs like UC CalFresh. With their fantastic work, Nutrition Educators are making sure that the diets of the whole family are improved to maintain health by eating healthy.
- Author: Angelica Perez
Madison Elementary School from Madera Unified School School District has received a $5,000 Lowe's Toolbox for Education grant for a school garden project.
We are thrilled to announce that Lowe's has awarded the Madison Elementary School funding for the Madison Mavericks "WE BELIEVE" in Healthy Living! garden project. Our grant application was based on the goal of improving the learning community at Madison Elementary School. We look forward to sharing the Madison Mavericks “WE BELIEVE” in Healthy Living! garden project with the Madison Elementary and surrounding community. This garden will give the students the opportunity to learn, plant, harvest and try new foods which they will have experienced to cultivate on their own. This will ultimately nurture and improve the learning community at Madison Elementary School.
The grant application was based on the goal of implementing the garden component of the Shaping Healthy Choices Program in Mrs. Roxie Schallberger's 4th grade classroom. The Shaping Healthy Choices Program is an inquiry-based, garden enhanced nutrition education curricula developed by the Center for Nutrition in Schools at UC Davis and is being implemented in the classroom by UC CalFresh Coordinator, Angelica Perez. We are now in the planning stages of this project, but are eager to get the garden growing for the students to learn.
Mrs. Roxie Schallbereger's 4th grade class holding a thank you sign and the $5,000 check donated by Lowe's.
“Thank you Lowe's for awarding Madison Elementary this grant! Your generosity will allow our students to touch worms, smell fresh herbs, taste new foods, and see the beauty of growing healthy food!" said Mrs. Roxie Schallberger.
All K-12 public schools in the United States are eligible for the Toolbox for Education program. More information is available at www.ToolboxforEducation.com.
- Author: Angelica Perez
As the lessons continued, the student groups were assigned a country and an artwork project that gathered different information about their country. This information included the agriculture practices, food that was grown and sold and even some cultural dishes. The students had fun creating their country's artwork.
The groups did a wonderful job in representing their respective countries and also showed how creative they are!