By Kyle Takayama, Community Nutrition Educator
On a crisp October morning, I arrived at the Claymont Community Center for a nutrition lesson hosted by Brandywine Child Care. Inside, I found small room where twelve preschoolers sat eagerly around a long, kid-sized table. The classroom was seasonally decorated with an array of pumpkins, apples, and fall foliage, made modestly out of construction paper and other school supplies.
“Good morning boys and girls! Today I am going to share a story with you about a cat named Curtis, who lives on a farm in Delaware. By a show of hands, how many of you have ever been to a farm or a garden before?” Without delay, twelve tiny hands shot quickly into the air…
The tale of Curtis’ Garden begins on a farm located in a rural town of southern Delaware. The star of the lesson, Curtis the Cat, likes to spend time with the many fruits and vegetables that grow from the first state’s soil. When Curtis and his family move north to an apartment in Wilmington, he is sad to find there are no farms or gardens where plants can be grown.
The dilemma faced by Curtis the Cat is one that is shared by many of Delaware’s urban communities. With very limited access to fresh, affordable produce, many struggle to eat the recommended amount of fruits and vegetables each day. In fact, a recent study conducted by the Center for Disease Control and Prevention showed that only 30 percent of Delawareans regularly consume five or more cups of fruits and vegetables each day.* This means that more than two-thirds of the people living in our community are missing a major source of important vitamins and minerals in their diet. The effects of having poor access to fruits and vegetables are especially alarming when considering the consequences it may have for the youngest generations, whose bodies and minds depend on good nutrition for proper growth and development.
As the story of Curtis’ Garden continues, it offers a solution for food insecure families who are trying to provide better food choices for their children. As a way to share his favorite fruits and vegetables with his new neighbors in Wilmington, Curtis is able to grow a few plants using a small space on the deck of his apartment. By demonstrating how easy it can be to start their own garden, parents and children living in an urban environment are encouraged to do the same. Fruits, vegetables, and herbs can be grown on a porch or a window sill as long as they receive enough sunlight each day. Also, families who are enrolled in the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (food stamps) may use some of their monthly benefits to purchase seeds, flower pots, and any other tools needed to get started. Taking care of a small urban garden is not only an inexpensive way to add new foods to a child’s diet, but it is also a great learning experience and a something they can be proud of.
Check out some more pictures from one of our Curtis’ Garden classes!