Sproutin' Up improves the health and wellness of under-resourced families in northern Colorado by providing access to fresh produce while educating youth on healthy lifestyles and sustainable agricultural practices.
WHY WE DO WHAT WE DO
According to the U.S. Census Bureau's American Community Survey, 18.3% of Fort Collins residents live in poverty. Since 2000, Larimer County's childhood poverty rate increased 1.9 times faster than the state of Colorado and 6.8 times faster than the nation.
According to the CDC's Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System, 75.2% of adults in Colorado consumed fruits and vegetables less than the recommended 5 times a day.
The CDC also identifies access to fresh fruits and vegetables through farmers' markets as playing an important role in reducing obesity.
In 2004 I took a job as a Community Health Educator. As part of my job, I went into mobile home communities and met kids after school. I would play active games with them, teach them a nutrition lesson and feed them a healthy snack. It was always my goal to give them a great experience and also give them a chance to try new foods. Over several years of teaching kids the importance of eating fresh fruits and vegetables and having them respond with, “My mom won’t buy that” or “That’s too expensive,” I wanted to do something about it. Even though that was frustrating to me, I understood. Think about it – if you can buy a box or bag of something that won’t go bad over fresh produce that might last a week, what are you going to buy when you’re stretching every dollar? I began wondering what would happen if I was able to take away every barrier to eating fresh produce.
So, that first year I started growing a garden in my backyard. I didn’t really have any formal gardening experience, but really believed I could do this. I put out notes to my friends and neighbors and asked them to donate any extra produce. After work, once a week, I would go to the same neighborhood where I had been educating for years and set up a farmers market. The residents were awesome! They were grateful (even when I had only 15 snap peas) and even brought plastic bags to share with others. Partway into that first year, I received a $300 grant and built four new beds in my backyard.
Well, we’ve grown! Since that first year, we’ve donated more than 4,500 pounds of produce to an average of 45 families per week! Now we’re getting even bigger and my hope now is to teach kids about gardening and food. To connect kids to the world around them and help people eat healthier.