Eat your vegetables!

Is there any reader whose mom who didn’t utter those words just about every day as you were growing up?   

Healthy Foods for Healthy Kids (HFHK) is also an advocate for good eating habits among kids. The organization is always on the lookout for volunteers who may have a green thumb or just want to help with the cause.  

The mission of Healthy Food for Healthy Kids is to inspire healthier lives by providing youths with “joyful school gardening experiences and opportunities to eat the garden-fresh vegetables they’ve grown”, according to a statement on its website. 

The Delaware-based group hopes to have a vegetable garden in every school in the state. Currently, the majority of school partners is in New Castle County but HFHK has ambitious plans to expand into Kent and Sussex Counties. Already, the program has raised more than 47,000 pounds of produce and touched the lives of 17,000 students.  

According to Community Engagement and Partnerships Director Anita Broccolino, HFHK is growing by leaps and bounds, partially due to the foresight and system developed by its founder Dr. Thianda Manzara, who recently retired.   

“What she started is literally unlike any other program we have found across the country,” says Broccolino.  

HFHK is in about 40 schools in Delaware including several locations in Sussex County such as Rehoboth Elementary, Phillip Showell Elementary, John M. Clayton, and Sussex Montesorri, Within the next year, the organization expects to be in at least six – ten more! Future Sussex County additions include Milton, Lord Baltimore in Ocean View, and East Millsboro, plus an early learning curriculum with the Early Learning Center in the Indian River School District.   

The vegetable garden program is curriculum-based making it easy for teacher to plug it into their learning programs. HFHK’s Education Cultivation program provides hands-on gardening activities through lessons that support Delaware State learning standards. Students experience “seed to table” growing each spring and fall and EAT fresh vegetables they’ve grown in their cafeterias. 

HFHK currently works with K-12 students, and tailors programming to fit the needs of each school. Most are K-5 public schools. Education Cultivation lessons typically are 45 minutes in length. Lessons include an introductory piece that is taught in the classroom, followed by a hands-on gardening piece. The program can be modified as needed.  

For the time being, the HFHK science-curriculum based vegetable gardens Education Cultivation program has focused only in Delaware. However, Broccolino notes that the organization been approached by other states to get things started elsewhere. “For now — what we do works, makes a difference in the lives of over 17,000 students in Delaware and we want to make sure we continue to Veggie-cate the First State,” she says. 

 With a full-time staff of two, much of the organization’s success is dependent on funding and volunteer support such as garden assistants, cooking demo assistants, garden builders, photographers and videographers as well as volunteers who have grant writing expertise and general fundraising interests. The volunteer network is organized by committees including the Special Event Committee, Development Committee, PR Committee, HR Committee.   

HFHK gets some funding from Delaware’s Grant in Aid program, but the majority of funds come through donations, sponsorships and community partnerships. An annual fundraiser and volunteer-recognition event is scheduled for September 16 at the Marshall Steam Museum & Friends of Auburn Heights in Hockessin, DE.  

Additional information about the fundraiser is available on the Healthy Food for Healthy Kids website.  (Article pics from the website.)

By Mary Jo Tarallo, Guest Journalist

Mary Jo Tarallo spent much of her career in public relations with various non-profits and spent 40 years involved with the ski industry as a journalist, public relations director for a national trade association and as executive director of the Learn to Ski and Snowboard initiative. Prior to her ski industry involvement she worked for the Maryland International Center in Baltimore and United Way of Central Maryland. She won a Gold Award for TV programming for a United Way simulcast that starred Oprah Winfrey. She has been cited for her work by numerous organizations. Mary Jo grew up in Baltimore, attended the University of Maryland and Towson University, lived in Washington, DC for 21 years and has been a full time resident of Rehoboth Beach and Milton since May 2019.  

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