Union County, NJ — In a unique program designed to help prevent childhood obesity, Queen City Academy in Plainfield has received a mini-grant of $7,500 to assist with nutrition education. The funds will help the K-8 school establish an educational garden along with other instructional activities. Queen City Academy is one of only nine schools selected for the mini-grant program statewide, through a process involving the Rutgers Cooperative Extension of Union County.
“The grant is small but it will go a long way, and Union County was up against some stiff competition to win these funds,” said Union County Freeholder Linda Carter. “On behalf of the Freeholder Board, I am very proud of Queen City Academy and the Extension for demonstrating the highest degree of professionalism and commitment to the goal of improving children’s nutrition.”
The Rutgers Cooperative Extension of Union County is supported in part by the Freeholder Board. It is part of a national program of the U.S. Department of Agriculture, in which counties provide the public with science-based information on health, nutrition and other areas including 4-H youth development. Freeholder Chairman Deborah Scanlon has included childhood obesity prevention in the Union County Chairman’s Initiatives this year.
The mini-grant program encourages children to include more fresh fruits and vegetables in their diet. Queen City Academy will use the funds to establish a vegetable garden, and to advise food service personnel on providing healthier choices at school breakfasts and lunches. Volunteers trained by the Extension will help the school integrate nutrition education in the classroom through engaging activities such as tastings and cooking demonstrations. The volunteers will also help schools connect the students’ families and communities with nutrition guidance.
“Research shows that children are more likely to try fresh vegetables that they have helped to grow, and gardening is a healthy outdoor activity that contributes to overall wellness,” said Carter. “This is a promising program and we anticipate that Queen City Academy will serve to inspire schools and families throughout Union County.”
Under the terms of the grant, the school garden will be planted and maintained by school personnel, students and parents during the school year and over the summer. The school garden must include at least three different vegetables that will be harvested and sampled by students. The project is also designed to promote teamwork and interaction among diverse student bodies.
A Union County Master Gardener will assist the school with the garden project. The Master Gardeners are volunteers who are trained and certified by the Extension. The school garden is one among many community projects undertaken by the group, which also maintains a large demonstration garden in the Union County’s Watchung Reservation.
Dr. Karen Ensle, RD, Department Head of Rutgers Cooperative Extension of Union County, along with Corey Wu-Jung, MS, RD, a Westfield resident and Northern New Jersey Coordinator for the grant will work with the Queen City Academy administration, faculty, parents, food service staff and students on the project, which comes under the New Jersey Department of Agriculture Grow Healthy New Jersey Garden-Based School Wellness Team Nutrition Grant Program. The selection process measured the ability of Queen City Academy to provide its students, staff, families and the broader school community with the best possible opportunities to improve health through improved nutrition and physical activity.
The mini-grant is part of a Team Nutrition Training Grant from the United States Department of Agriculture to train food service professionals, increase fruit and vegetable consumption, and promote locally grown produce in school meals.
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