Farm Youth Initiative in Full Swing - Capital Area Food Bank
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Farm Youth Initiative in Full Swing

By Susan Topping September 19, 2011

In the classroom and out on the farm, kids are learning why it’s better to opt for a fresh apple when choosing snacks.

We just finished our eighth week of the Farm Youth Initiative and despite this summer’s heat, our kids seem to love getting out of the city to visit Clagett Farm.  A joint venture of the CAFB and the Chesapeake Bay Foundation, Clagett is a 285-acre, certified organic farm located in Upper Marlboro, MD.  The FYI program consists of a two-day nutrition and gardening class for children from Kids Cafe sites in the Washington metropolitan area.  FYI education themes change every growing season, with this year’s theme centered on every child’s favorite thing – snack time!

The first day is a one-hour session on how to read an ingredient list in order to tell if you have a healthy snack.  The class uses hands-on demonstrations and activities to keep the kids interested including getting to prepare a snack together in groups.  The “edu-tainment” continues the next day with games and activities at Clagett Farm.  Students plant, water and harvest fresh vegetables from the “pizza” and “pasta” ingredient gardens.  Then, they make a healthy pasta salad together with the freshly picked vegetables.  They also get to play in the sprinkler and feed crickets to the Clagett chickens.

Close to 200 children participated in the program this summer.  The Farm Youth Initiative is a truly collaborative project.  The program works across a number of departments within the food bank, including the Food for Kids, Harvest for Health and the Nutrition Education departments. This year, FYI operated at 11 different sites in and around DC, with some sites participating more than once. 

As part of the Fresh Produce Grant shared between the CAFB and Clagett Farm, every child who goes through the two-day course receives a ½ CSA share, which works out to about 75 pounds of fresh, organic produce for every site who participates in the program.  In addition to the CSA shares the students take home with corresponding recipes, participants harvested over 145 pounds of fresh produce.

As one young participant put it, “This is more fun than all you can eat pizza and wing night at my summer camp!”

We couldn’t agree more.