COLUMBIA — The Southern Boone Learning Garden will see growth with the help of a grant.
The Southern Boone Learning Garden was awarded a $475,000 grant to be distributed over five years. The Missouri Foundation for Health's Community Health and Prevention program awarded the grant.
"For everyone's efforts to be recognized and supported and for the foundation to say you guys can go forward with this program, well, it's pretty awesome," Jennifer Grabner, co-founder, said.
According to its website, the Community Health and Prevention program focuses on establishing "communities where good health, healthy behaviors and the healthy choice are the norm.”
Funds from the grant will be used to expand the Learning Garden throughout the district. The grant will also help form a Southern Boone Healthy Community Partnership and provide money for four paid employees.
According to Grabner, the grant will help pay to:
- Conduct a community health needs assessment.
- Develop a Walking School Bus program for the Southern Boone School District.
- Provide youth gardening workshops for rural Missouri schools and communities.
- Provide ongoing professional development workshops to integrate garden and classroom teaching.
- Expand Learning Garden services to include all middle school and high school students, teachers and families.
"We just want to increase access to healthy food and make it easier to help folks live more active lives," Grabner said.
Building new bike paths and trails and supporting farmers markets are some specific ideas Grabner would like to see put in place with help of the partnership.
The garden was started in 2007 by Grabner and Lesli Moylan as part of an after-school club for third- and fourth-graders. It was a way to teach students about gardening and increase exposure and consumption of fresh vegetables.
"We had concerns about obesity and the cuts to recess and outdoor activity time," Grabner said. "We thought maybe we could help with that."
What started as a small club has has grown to include more than 700 students and 60 volunteers. In addition to the after-school club, classrooms have included the Learning Garden as part of the curriculum.
"The community has really gathered behind it," Grabner said.
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