In support of our SNAP-Ed efforts we are focusing a lot of time and attention on our food systems efforts, specifically supporting summer food programs and increasing our gardening efforts.
We participated in the Summer Food Service Programs for both St. Johns Unified and Round Valley Unified in the communities of St. Johns and Springerville-Eagar from June through the end of July. Food Service directors asked that we participate in the program by providing Direct Education and Physical Activity to the participants. The food service programs in these communities are held at the community park and it makes the delivery, set-up, and disbursement of the meals somewhat chaotic.
Food Service Directors asked that we be there to provide activities to the kids to help keep them focused and engaged. When the program first started we saw a high level of interest and participation in the program. At one event staff had approximately 190 participants-way above the expected numbers given to us by the food service director-staff quickly modified the CATCH parachute activities that they were using for the day and had the older students work with them as instructors and help the younger children so as to ensure that all participants were physically active and engaged. These activities were so successful and popular that when we shifted to other activities participants continually asked if they could play with the parachute instead.
An additional area that saw massive growth was in the area specific to gardens. We have 5 active gardens within the service area, including 2 on the Navajo Nation that are serving as Community Gardens. The garden at the Sanders Clinic was a true collaborative effort that saw the clinic, Cooperative Extension, and the Sanders Unified School District working together to establish the garden.
The garden is housed on Clinic property, the FFA (Future Farmers of America) and CTE (Career and Technology Education) students prepared the soil and built the raised beds, Cooperative Extension provided both TA and DE to the site and participants in order to instruct on how to make the most out of the garden. Additionally, the Garden Kitchen in St. Johns was highly productive during this reporting period. By making use of 2 Hoop Houses we were able to extend our growing season, which is not typically very long, so we were able to have produce at an earlier date than the home gardeners in our community. This provided us with the opportunity to enrich our DE that we offered to the community as we had fresh fruits and vegetables that we were able to use for cooking demonstrations.