Updates from our Ready Set Grow Champion Awardees

The Food Trust has recognized 20 ECE sites statewide for their commitment to teaching young children about growing food and connecting them to their agricultural communities. Awardees were selected through a competitive proposal process and received funds to support various farm to ECE efforts, including procurement, education, gardening and family engagement.

Throughout the process, champions have shared their experiences, attended Ready, Set, Grow taskforce meetings, helped develop resources, presented at ECE conferences, collaborated in the development of a Harvest of the Month toolkit and continued to promote Farm to ECE activities at their sites.

Here are updates from a sample of awardees across the commonwealth:

Angels’ Place, Inc. (Allegheny County, PA)
Ready, Set, Grow Champion: Cari Goss Quinn

Children have been taught the lifecycle of plants and the occupation of a farmer to gain knowledge of how and where food grows. Teachers have incorporated these concepts into their curriculum and implemented them through classroom research, hands-on activities, and taste-testing.

Through introducing healthy fruits and vegetables to children throughout the school year, along with incorporating activities that teach children how food makes our bodies strong, teachers reported children can identify five foods that make their bodies healthy. They also observed that the children choose healthy foods on their own accord.

“Can I have more cucumber?” Children have developed a preference for fresh fruits and vegetables over canned or less healthy options. There is a willingness to try a new fruit or vegetable and teachers have incorporated the importance of healthy foods and the science behind their development in the classroom at age-appropriate levels.

Opportunities and Challenges: Angels’ Place works diligently to model healthy eating at both of our centers at mealtimes and to parents as much as possible. They also work to support parents in implementing healthy foods at home. Encouraging parents to learn more about healthy eating resources will continue to be an opportunity for growth for the organization. Their challenge for this gardening year was the great amounts of rain which increased the growth of weeds. The champion reported that it was hard to keep up with weeding which often resulted in our vegetables and flowers fighting for survival.  In addition, the children, while learning about gardening and weeding sometimes trampled and pulled out viable plants in their exuberance.

Resources: Let’s Move Pittsburgh was a great resource in also supporting healthy eating and moving programming at Angels’ Place. Local farms were generous enough to partner with Angels’ Place in providing fresh organic fruits and vegetables. The Greater Pittsburgh Community Food Bank remains a reliable source of offering fresh fruits and vegetables. In addition, thanks to their PNC Grow up Great volunteer teams we had support in helping to till the soil and weed their gardens.

Below, PA Department of Education Secretary Pedro Rivera sits with children while visiting the Angels' Place during a farm to CACFP site visit. Click here to learn more about Secretary Rivera's site visit.

Mt. Washington Children's Center (Allegheny County, PA)
Ready, Set, Grow Champions: Rose Marie and Beverly

Students and staff at Mt. Washington Children's Center were very excited about the farm to table activities this year. They were busy working in the gardening where they planted corn, carrots, basil, strawberries, radish, tomatoes, pepper, sunflowers among others. They hosted a small farmers market for the parents and learned of many types of tomatoes and of basil’s potent and flavorful spice!

Easter Seals of Southeastern PA (Kulpsville, PA)
Ready, Set, Grow Champion: Cathy Kriebel

Easter Seals of Southeastern PA provides a wide array of care services to many children of Montgomery County including those with disabilities or special needs. This year they continued to serve locally grown food snacks including those grown in their garden. They conducted hands-on gardening sessions with preschoolers where they planted kale, green beans, eggplant, cucumber, flowers, among other fruits and vegetables.  They developed lesson plans for a green curriculum and hosted a farm field trip.

Seton Hill Child Services (Westmoreland County, PA)

Ready, Set, Grow Champion:  Ashley Shaner, MS, NDTR

Seton Hill Child Services Farm to ECE program used their Champion Award funds to purchase play food and books to teach the children how fruits and vegetables grow. Due to circumstances out of their control, they were unable to plant an outdoor garden this year so they had indoor farm to ECE activities that included dramatic play cooking and reading activities with fun interactive books like Eating the Alphabet by Lois Ehlert.