A new healthy foods initiative brings together NJPHK-Camden, Campbell Soup Company, United Way of Greater Philadelphia and Southern New Jersey and the Center for Environmental Transformation with a goal to improve the school food environment and connect existing gardens.
The initiative focuses on access to gardens, knowledge about nutrition, and engaging students, parents and community volunteers in building gardens, growing vegetables and improving awareness about healthy eating in schools and homes.
Six sites have been identified through Campbell Soup Company’s Healthy Communities Initiative. They include four schools (Early Childhood Development Center, ECO Charter School, DUE Seasons Charter School, and Holy Name School) and two social services agencies (Respond, Inc. and Center for Family Services).
Alexis Sangalang is onboard to help make it all happen. A FoodCorps service member, Sangalang will be instrumental in getting the initiative off the ground. She is already working with children at Center for Family Services to plant vegetables during play time in three established garden beds. Planting is also underway at the Early Childhood Development Center in its newly built garden beds. When planting is over, Sangalang and the children will move indoors for nutrition education and garden-related craft projects, such as making signs for the gardens. “It will take a while to see the plants growing. Until then we’ll have taste testing with kale and other vegetables to introduce them to the children if they haven’t heard of them or tried them before,” says Sangalang.
At DUE Seasons, Sangalang is assisting the Food Bank of South Jersey with “Cooking Matters,” a nutrition education program that teaches families how to make healthy and budget-wise food choices. There’s no garden yet at DUE Seasons, but they do have herb container gardens and Sangalang hopes to help them establish a green club or garden club.
Valeria Galarza, NJPHK-Camden project manager, says this is the first time that the partnership has joined with others to underwrite a position. “The partnership between NJPHK and the Center for Environmental Transformation in overseeing this project is an interesting model. Collectively we will oversee the strategic plan, providing direction from our unique areas of expertise. like gardens, strategic planning, and advocating for policy and environmental changes. It’s a great example of pulling resources together to serve the community.”
Kim Fortunato, Campbell Soup Company’s director of Childhood Obesity and Hunger has been in talks with FoodCorps for two years about the initiative. She has been the driving force in bringing a FoodCorps service member to Camden. “The FoodCorps position gives us the capacity to assess gardens and expand food access,” says Galarza.
Other local resources that will participate in the initiative include The Food Trust, Camden City Garden Club, GreensGrow Farms, Delaware Valley Regional Planning Commission and NJ Farm to School Network.SHARE: