CHAMBERSBURG, Pa. – Juicy red tomatoes, bright orange pumpkins, and deep purple eggplants are just a few of the delicious items local children will grow this year as part of a community garden effort.

A 2012 Community Health Needs Assessment found that 80 percent of Franklin County residents don’t consume the recommended five daily servings of fruits and vegetables – a statistic that’s about 8 percent higher than the state average.

In an effort to address these community needs, a number of local organizations including Summit Health, BOPIC, Inc. – Building Our Pride in Chambersburg, Wilson College, St. Paul United Methodist Church, and Franklin County officials have started a summer garden project for elementary school children.

“It’s really great to see local organizations coming together to address the health needs in their community,” said Nickie Fickel, manager of Community Health for Summit Health.

“Having a community garden is going to empower these children to take an active role in their health and nutrition. By learning healthy eating habits early on, it will help them to develop into healthy adults.”

The garden will be grown on donated space at St. Paul United Methodist Church, 750 Norland Ave., Chambersburg.

Garden bed preparation begins on April 12 with planting throughout April and May. Children in the BOPIC Summer Enrichment and Nutrition Program will begin getting their hands dirty on June 23.

“By establishing a community garden, we will have the ability to have parents and children directly involved in the planting, maintenance, and harvesting of fresh produce, which will reinforce the benefits of preparing healthier, fresh, harvested food,” said Jack Jones, BOPIC president.

In addition to the hands-on experience, healthy eating habits and nutrition will be reinforced in the classroom with the Jr. Master Gardener Health and Nutrition curriculum.

Parents will complete an assessment of their children’s daily meals, which will enable program directors to evaluate the meals that are currently being served at home, Jones said.

A certified dietitian will review the evaluations and help make recommendations to each family, which will ultimately stress the importance of preparing fresh, healthy meals for their children, he said.

After their hard work, children will reap the fruits of their labor by serving their produce to their families during BOPIC’s Parents Night in July.

One of the best benefits of the project is that parents and children will be taking ownership of the food they grow and consume, said Elizabeth Grant, grants associate with the Franklin County Commissioners office.

The hope is they will not only become more aware of what it takes to bring food to the table, but they’ll be influenced to increase fruits and vegetable consumption, Grant said.

“The Fulton Farm at Wilson College has provided on-farm and nutrition programming for the BOPIC program for the past two years,” added Chris Mayer, program manager for the Fulton Center for Sustainable Living at Wilson College. “I’m excited to continue this aspect with visits to Fulton Farm this summer, but thrilled to see the children’s experience enhanced with their own garden plots.”

Seven garden beds will be planted, each with their own theme:

  • Pizza Garden: Tomatoes, onions, basil, oregano, bell peppers, and garlic
  • Salad: Lettuce, radishes, carrots, bush cucumbers, kale, and mesclun mix
  • Ratatouille: Eggplant, onion, bell pepper, Zucchini, Yellow squash, tomato, parsley, basil, and thyme
  • Veggie Soup: Green beans, onions, carrots, potatoes, tomatoes, parsley, and corn
  • Stir Fry: Snow peas, broccoli, bok choy, spring onions, and garlic
  • Salsa: Tomatoes, bell peppers, hot peppers, onions, tomatillos, cilantro, and cumin
  • Color Wheel: Red - cherry tomatoes, radishes, beets; Green - snow peas, green beans, broccoli, zucchini; Blue/Purple - red cabbage, eggplant; Yellow - Yellow cherry tomatoes, yellow squash; Orange - pumpkins, butternut squash, carrots, orange peppers

 

For more information about the community garden, contact Summit Health’s Community Health Manager Nickie Fickel at (717) 267-7561 or nfickel@summithealth.org.

END

Summit Health is a non-profit network of hospitals and physician practices dedicated to building a healthier community.

As Franklin County's leading healthcare provider, Summit Health offers family care, specialists, lab and imaging services, a fitness center, two walk-in care centers, and two award-winning hospitals.

More information is available at www.SummitHealth.org and www.facebook.com/SummitHealth.

Monday, March 31, 2014