The University of South Florida (USF) Center for the Advancement of Food Security and Healthy Communities (CAFSHC), the USF Metropolitan Food Project (MFP), and the Urban Food Project are carrying out a farm-based nutrition education program (NEP) which is funded by the United States Department of Agriculture (#2022-70026-37846)/National Institute of Food and Agriculture (GRANT135334385).
The NEP is taking place at the 15th Street Farm located in St. Petersburg (FL) and local area schools. The NEP is teaching agricultural science to children, teachers, and parents; improving nutritional health through the robust scaling up of services that bring together local farm regenerative agricultural producers; providing community nutrition programming; and partnering with school whose work engages underserved urban children in health promotion awareness and experiential learning.
The imperative of the NEP stems from data showing that nearly 20% of children in Tampa Bay were food insecure prior to the COVID-19 pandemic. Since then, there has been a 400% increase in the demand for food assistance and child food insecurity has risen. There is a preponderance of evidence linking chronic food insecurity to diet-related chronic diseases, weakened immunity, behavioral problems, and anxiety and depression.
Improve nutritional knowledge of children be providing a farm/nature-based nutrition education program through a series of activities (i.e., mobile farm, “Young Farmers” program, cooking/tasting classes, story-telling, and hands-on garden activities.
Increase children’s food growing and agriculture knowledge through early exposure to urban farms through various activities and the relationship between the soil, plant, and microbiomes in the context of nutrition and health.
Provide educator tools, facilities, and trained instructors to promote healthy nutrition and its origin through activities the involve students and parents at school gardens and the 15th St. Farm-NEP.
Increase awareness of local food production and support the area’s nascent local food system through extensive community collaborations with several schools and agencies which provide services to underserved urban communities.
Foster long-term health food choices be creating environments at schools, the farm, and larger communities where children can develop an emotional bond with the foods that they grow through participation in the Program.
The participants in the NEP include children and parents that live in households below the ALICE threshold (families who earn less than the basic cost of living and families who earn below the Federal Poverty Level).
Community partners in the Program include the R Club (childcare provider), Sunflower Elementary School, Sail Future (child welfare agency and private school), Academy Preparatory Education Center, De la Fontaine Montessori (trilingual preschool), Creative Play and Children’s Learning Center (pre-school) and the Juvenile Welfare Board of Pinellas County. Teachers and educators from of these partners are participating in the NEP.
Faculty and students from CAFHSC Center are providing support and research expertise to the NEP. A process and outcomes evaluation are being conducted to measure the efficacy of the NEP. A sustainability plan has been developed to scale-up this program in collaboration with the USF-MFP.
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