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 Help Our Gardens Grow!

Gardens to Grow In Receives 2014 Golden Health Award

School garden support organization is second to win award.


This past Saturday, nearly 200 people gathered at Ironstone Vineyards in Murphys to celebrate and honor the work being done to address the health and well-being of Calaveras County residents. The Golden Health Awards, an event sponsored by the Mark Twain Healthcare District and Mark Twain Medical Center Foundation, brought together leaders in the healthcare field, nonprofit organizations and community members who all want to see the people of Calaveras County thrive.


Gardens to Grow In, a nonprofit that supports school gardens, garden-based nutrition education, and Farm to School efforts, became the second organization in Calaveras to receive the top prize of $5000.00. The Blue Mountain Coalition for Youth and Families took home the first Golden Health Award in 2013. The Volunteer Center of Calaveras County, Mind Matters, Calaveras Youth Mentoring Program and The Resource Connection - Calaveras Crisis Center were also nominated this year and each received $2000.00 to support their programs.


“It was a great honor to be selected among such an amazing group of dedicated nominees who are all doing wonderful and important work in our community”, said Kevin Hesser, teacher and garden coordinator in CUSD, and co-founder of Gardens to Grow In. “By supporting these grassroots efforts, the Mark Twain Healthcare District and Medical Center Foundation are investing in the future health of our children and community”, he added.


The Golden Health Award was established in 2013 to recognize and award selected health care organizations and individuals who have made a positive impact to the health and wellness of the Calaveras County community.


In addition to the five organizations above, Doris Barger was presented with the Community Health and Service Lifetime Achievement Award, and Dr. William Griffith was honored with the 2014 Healthcare Delivery Award.


 Gardens to Grow In plans on using the prize money to increase their capacity to implement garden-based nutrition education programs in Calaveras county schools, start a $500 mini-grant program for school gardens in the region, and provide workshops and trainings to teachers, parents, and community members focused on using gardens as resources to develop healthier eating and lifestyle choices.


 Started in 2010, under the umbrella of the Calaveras Unified School District Educational Foundation, Gardens to Grow In branched out to form their own nonprofit in September 2013. They partner with Calaveras county schools, and other organizations, to support school garden development and maintenance, garden-based nutrition education and the promotion of Farm to School programs.


Gardens to Grow In worked with many stakeholders to develop a framework for "Creating Healthy and Sustainable Systems in Schools" (CHASSIS) that is guiding their efforts. The framework is based on the philosophy that if we create a community centered, health based paradigm in our schools and community, all other elements of the system will thrive. The foundation of this framework is creating healthy individuals through school and community gardens, nutrition/health education and local, organic agriculture.  



“Our mission is to promote and support healthy and sustainable lifestyles in schools and communities by teaching children and families how to grow and prepare healthy food”, said co-founder Odile Morrison, a Calaveras UC Master Gardener and parent of two students at Toyon. “We are thrilled to have the support of the Mark Twain Healthcare District and the Mark Twain Medical Center Foundation in this effort.”


“This award really validates the work that so many people in our community have been doing for years with school and community gardens and local, small scale agriculture” Hesser added. “There is a large network of people dedicated to this work in our region, and we are proud to be a part of that movement. As this movement continues to grow, we are seeing the results in the health and well-being of individuals, families and the community as a whole.”


Morrison said that many parents are already asking about how they can do this in their own homes after their children have come home so excited about the gardens and the food they are eating at school.


"These programs are having an incredibly positive impact in our schools", said Mark Campbell, Superintendent of CUSD who nominated Gardens to Grow In for the award. "Not only are they increasing the awareness of healthy food choices and changing the eating habits of our students and families, they are also providing many hands-on, project-based academic learning opportunities for our students. All of this leads to a healthier, more vibrant school environment allowing our students to thrive.


" Over the last three years, Gardens to Grow In has started garden programs at two sites, and supported garden and nutrition programs at nine CUSD schools. They have also partnered with CUSD and the UC Cooperative Extension Central Sierra (UCCECS) to host a FoodCorps service member. FoodCorps is a national nonprofit that connects kids to real food by supporting school gardens, nutrition education and Farm to School programs and currently operates in 15 states throughout the country, with plans to expand to two more states next year.


In addition, Gardens to Grow In has been selected to be a regional co-lead for the California Farm to School Network. They will be working with the UCCECS and CAFF (Community Alliance with Family Farmers) to develop a Mother Lode Farm to School Network, which will connect stakeholders in El Dorado, Amador, Calaveras and Tuolumne counties to find ways to support each other in their Farm to School efforts.


Upcoming Workshops and Events:Sunday, February 9, 2014 - 9:00 am – 2:00 pmSan Andreas Elementary School Garden Work Party (Building the school’s first 10 beds!)Saturday, April 19th, from 8:00 am - 3:00 pm:Valley Springs Elementary School - GENE (Garden-Enhanced Nutrition Education) workshop offered to school garden volunteers, parents, educators, and teachers who work in school or community gardens Thursdays, April 24, May 1 and May 8th from 5:30 to 7:30 Valley Spring Elementary School – Gardens for Growth - a free 3 part series for parents, caregivers and educators focusing on gardening, preparing food and outdoor activities with children. If you are interested in finding out more about these programs or supporting these efforts, please contact Gardens to Grow In at Enterprise Golden Health Awards Article - 2-4-14


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