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4-H Volunteer Marcia Johnson

Marcia Johnson

Left to right: Donald Downes vice-chairman, Eastern States CT Corporators; Marcia Johnson; Jo-Ann Hall, parent of a former Nathan Hale student; Eugene Cassidy, president and CEO, Eastern States Corp.

Twenty-eight years as an elementary school teacher has not dampened the enthusiasm of 4-H volunteer Marcia Johnson. She’s upbeat, energetic and clearly excited about teaching. Five years ago, Johnson created a school gardening program for her students at John Barry Elementary School in Meriden. When Johnson took a position at Meriden’s Nathan Hale School, she created the 4-H Environmental Education and Garden Club. She says, “I love the 4-H curriculum, and the kids really enjoy it.” In 2013, Johnson brought the Junior Master Gardener curriculum to her program, and a year later, she decided to complete the 4-H volunteer training so she might bring 4-H to students in her after-school and summer clubs. This year, thirty students joined the club from grades three, four, and five. High school students volunteer to assist with the program. “I am by no means a gardening expert,” says Johnson.

“I am learning along with the kids. For two years before we planted our first seed, I collected information on gardening curriculum at every grade level. I’m always searching online for gardening ideas. I would love to take the Master Gardener Program at UConn.” The students planted eight raised beds filled with strawberries, eggplant, zucchini and yellow squash, basil and green beans, in addition to a few annual flowers chosen to attract pollinators. Johnson added a hydroponic tower to house a lettuce crop. She uses the harvested produce to teach the children healthy cooking and food preparation. Students take produce home as well.

Umekia Taylor, associate extension educator with UConn Extension, was so impressed with Johnson’s program, she awarded the school a 4-H CT FANs IM mini grant that provided raised bed kits, curriculum materials and tools, as well as programming assistance. Over the summer, two 4-H CT FANs IM staff spent two days a week with Johnson’s students, providing fun activities that focused on gardening, nutrition, and fitness.

Johnson is continually looking for new club activities to provide experiential learning for her students. She brought in chicken eggs to incubate in the classroom, and set up honey tasting with a local beekeeper. Johnson never tires of working with her students. “It’s the best part of my day. The kids just love it and they never want to go home.”

Johnson received the 2013 and 2014 Connecticut AgriScience Award sponsored by the Connecticut Corporators to the Eastern States Exposition (The Big E). She is also the recipient of the American Farm Bureau’s White Reinhardt Award and received a grant from the Connecticut Agricultural Education Foundation.

“I can’t get over how fascinated the kids are to see things grow from a seed,” Johnson says. “We live in such a technological society where kids go to a restaurant and food suddenly appears. We rarely take the time anymore to teach children about nature.

FoodCorps Making an Impact

FoodCorps service members

Our FoodCorps Connecticut service members are making a large impact across the state!

Since September 1st:

The 15 superstar service members have interacted with  6257 students! 

They have harvested 355.25 lbs of produce from school or community gardens!

They have worked with 545 volunteers!

CT Service members have also worked with 40 farmers!

What amazing numbers!!!!

Barnum School 4-H Garden

Since 1968, Expanded Food and Nutrition Education Program (EFNEP) has been funded by he United States Department of Agriculture and is an integral part of the UConn Extension. Currently, it is one of the federal government’s longest running educational outreach programs targeted to low-income families. Specially trained EFNEP Nutrition Assistants, who know their communities well, work with program families in their homes or in small community groups to offer knowledge and skills to help people control and manage their food and nutrition practices for better health and quality of life. In combination with food assistance programs such and WIC or the USDA Food Stamp Program, EFNEP can make a difference in improving food choices and health.

The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), through the Food Stamp Act of 1977, as amended, provides for the operation of the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program in the State of Connecticut. The State of Connecticut Department of Social Services (DSS) has been designated by the USDA to administer the State’s Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program-Education(SNAP-Ed) activities and DSS in turn has contracted with UConn and the CT Department of Public Health to design and implement SNAP-Ed projects. Under this contract, the USDA has authorized the University of Connecticut’s Department of Allied Health Sciences to administer, design, develop implement and evaluate a SNAP-Ed plan based on the following objectives.

Watch the video on the Barnum School 4-H Garden here.

New School Garden

Heather Pease from UCONN Hartford County Extension Expanded Food Nutrition Education Program and Food Corps member Deanna Lampo installed concrete block raised beds in the courtyard of Vance Village Elementary School in New Britain. Deanna teaches an after school garden and nutrition education class.

The  garden beds were built with concrete blocks that were purchased with funds  given by the Hartford County Extension Council. Now that the garden is in place after school students will plant the seeds of early spring vegetables such as peas, broccoli, and lettuces. Once the plants grow the students will eat they food they grew! The garden is an important link to nutrition education.  Most of these plants will be ready to eat in about 45 days. If they grow it, they it they will eat it!

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