Thanks to USDA’s Foreign Agricultural Service (FAS) office in Warsaw, children in Poland are learning about health and nutrition and are helping preserve the environment – all while perfecting their gardening skills.
FAS Warsaw has two youth education projects: the American-Polish Youth Vegetable Garden Project, which began in 2010, and the School Garden Project, which began this year.
In addition to supporting youth education, both projects are also a part of USDA’s People’s Garden Initiative, which challenges USDA employees to establish People’s Gardens at USDA posts in communities worldwide. People’s Gardens vary in size and content, but they all have a common purpose of helping better the community and environment.
FAS Warsaw started the American-Polish Youth Vegetable Garden Project in collaboration with the American School in Warsaw last year to promote physical activity, health and nutrition among children. The project was inspired by the First Lady Michelle Obama and Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack’s commitment to encouraging healthy living by fighting childhood obesity.
Children from the American School started the vegetable garden from scratch and cultivated it from March through August of 2010. When the fruits and vegetables were harvested, the school incorporated them into meals served in the cafeteria and featured them in the school’s After Harvest Festival. Beyond the garden, the project also included classroom lessons. FAS Warsaw developed the curriculum with the American School and the Warsaw School of Agriculture. The training included lessons on various agricultural systems, different methods of food production, and the health and nutrition value of foods.
The School Garden Project was an outgrowth of the successful 2010 vegetable garden project. This time, FAS Warsaw joined forces with Poland’s 4-H Foundation, and thus was able to include more youth and reach schools and communities throughout the country.
In addition to fruits and vegetables, children also grew herbs, flowers, trees and shrubs. In all, the School Garden Project involved 30 different 4-H clubs and 520 children from across Poland. When the gardens were harvested, much of the food was donated to the needy.
FAS Poland is enthusiastic that these garden initiatives will not only have a lasting, positive impact on Poland’s environment, but also on the health and wellbeing of Polish youth. Several of the 4-H clubs that participated in the 2011 garden program have announced plans to continue the project into 2012.
Earlier today, Agriculture Deputy Secretary Kathleen Merrigan visited a community garden in Baltimore, Md., to announce 10 grants to support 155 People’s Gardens in the United States, continuing USDA’s efforts to combat malnutrition while supporting local and regional food systems. These sustainable community gardens will give residents direct access to fresh fruits and vegetables in underserved neighborhoods. A lack of access to fresh and nutritious food fuels obesity and domestic food insecurity—a condition where households experience limited or uncertain access to adequate food. To learn more about the People’s Garden Initiative, click here.