Getting veggies to kids

Published 8:09 pm Saturday, July 4, 2015

Program plans to improve childcare access to produce

A local organization will hold two events in the next month to introduce the community to its new initiative, Farm2Childcare.

The program, funded by a planning grant from the Obici Healthcare Foundation, is being conducted by the Planning Council. It aims to connect childcare providers to fresh produce, particularly from farmers or from gardens on the childcare provider’s own property.

“I feel like we’re connecting the dots,” said Marissa Spady, nutrition specialist at the Planning Council. “Ultimately, I think there’s a lot of things that can potentially come out of this.”

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The Planning Council previously has done a program that encouraged childcare providers to adopt nutrition and physical activity policies, and about 50 have done so. This new program goes hand-in-hand with that one, Spady said. Any centers that were missed in the previous program or have changed their minds still are welcome to call her at 622-9268 to sign up.

Spady said surveys have been sent to farmers and childcare providers to see what they are willing and able to do in connection with the program. One idea is to have community-supported agriculture deliveries to childcare providers, “just to introduce the childcare provider as well as the children to new kinds of produce and new ways to prepare it,” Spady said.

Ipek Taffe, vice president for children’s services at the Planning Council, said the program should especially help those who live in “food deserts” — urban neighborhoods or rural towns with no grocery store, where many people do not have access to a vehicle to get to a grocery store.

“There’s so many people who do their basic shopping from convenience stores, with a limited selection of fresh produce,” Taffe said. “We have a lot of energy and excitement around this.”

On July 11, the Planning Council will present a program on container gardening, which can be a child-friendly avenue to introduce them to new produce. The program will take place from 9 to 11 a.m. at the Suffolk Department of Social Services’ third-floor conference room in the Health and Human Services building, 135 Hall Ave.

Vickie Pepper and Pat Sisson, horticulturists with the Norfolk Botanical Gardens, will be the presenters.

Parents and childcare providers are welcome at the event. Call 622-9268, extension 3001 to sign up.

In addition, on Aug. 4, a community stakeholder dinner will take place at 6:30 p.m. at Suffolk’s Liberty Baptist Church, 116 Romans Road. Those planning to attend should RSVP by July 20 to the above number or

Farmers, childcare providers and other community stakeholders are encouraged to attend to share their needs and ideas.