Around Town

Garden for kids provides education, nutrition

WESTFIELD-Youngsters participating in the Boys and Girls Club of Greater Westfield’s summer programming are learning a variety of life skills – including the importance of eating healthy.

On a recent morning in the “kids garden,” Kellie Brown, director of operations, joined several 5- and 6-year-olds in reaping the benefits of their current harvest – including huge zucchini.

“It was really cool to see a vegetable that big,” noted Jade Lastowski, 6. “I like taking care of plants and watching them grow.”

Kellie Brown, director of operations at the Boys and Girls Club of Greater Westfield, is seen with children who are participating in garden activities this summer. Children, left to right, are Jade Lastowski, Jax Brown, Robby Cross, Josean Ortiz-Rivera, Ella Racicot and Joseph Daley-Brady. (Submitted photo)

Jax Brown, 5, had a similar sentiment.

“That was a very big zucchini and I like eating them ‘cause it makes you big and strong,” said Brown, adding, “that’s why a garden is important.”

The garden was started two years ago with tomato plants, orchestrated by CEO Bill Parks and his wife Jan.

“This year with the help of the First Congregational Church here in Westfield, we were able to plant more vegetables,” said Brown.

Brown noted that the youngsters are responsible for watering and maintaining the garden with the help of their teachers as part of their summer programming schedule.

“The children are learning how important it is to take care of the garden so the vegetables can grow and then be eaten,” said Brown.

During the summer, two nutritional programs that are offered focus on the importance of fruits and vegetables. Representatives from the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program and the University of Massachusetts-Amherst nutrition program visit the site each week to teach various age groups about the role farmers play in providing area residents with healthy food.

“Programs such as these remind children about how a vegetable is grown from seeds to full size, the amount of care that is needed, how hard the farmers work to get the food to the stores for us to buy, and that you should always eat vegetables to stay healthy,” said Brown.

The 6-foot by 3-foot garden this summer features tomatoes, zucchini and squash, and is housed in a planters box in the fenced area of the playground.

Brown, whose role includes overseeing and ensuring someone is taking care of the garden, added that the fruits of the children’s labor will be cut up for the children to enjoy during the coming weeks.

“As for the nutrition programs, it is my responsibility to make sure the programs are running and the children are benefitting from them,” said Brown.

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