Tower Garden Project
Dr. Keith Newby is a lifelong resident of the city of Norfolk, and the Newby Foundation is committed to providing support to its most vulnerable citizens. Norfolk has one of the highest rates of childhood obesity, type-two diabetes, and heart disease in the nation. This is an epidemic that is predominately in low-income communities such as the Ingleside neighborhood where food insecurities are prevalent. The USDA defines food insecurity as “limited or uncertain availability of nutritionally adequate and safe foods”. Put simply, it is the state of being without reliable access to enough affordable, nutritious foods for your household. While access & affordability are key, exposure and education about nutrition and healthy food options are also needed. We can shape the next generation by educating children on healthy lifestyle choices. Teaching kids where food comes from and how it benefits their health is a lesson that will last a lifetime.
The Sentara Cares Grant
The Newby Foundation is pleased to announce we have received a grant from Sentara Health System to place Tower Gardens in two Norfolk Public Schools – Ingleside Elementary and Southside STEM Academy at Campostella (SSAC). Sentara cares about advancing health equity and ensuring that all members of our communities have access to the resources they need to live their healthiest and most fulfilling lives. They address issues on the ground every day where people live — not just when they’re under medical care. Only then can they help to eliminate health disparities and promote equitable access to nutritious foods, education, safe and affordable housing, and stable, rewarding job opportunities. The purpose of these two organizations is perfectly aligned!
What Are Tower Gardens?
Working in a community garden is an excellent way for kids to learn about where foods come from and to gain a basic introduction to nutrition, healthy food choices, environmental issues, etc. However, traditional gardens are labor intensive and optimal gardening season in Hampton Roads occurs in the summer months when school is out. Tower Gardens are the solution because you can grow more plants in less time with fewer resources. Aeroponic technology, compared to soil gardening, increases yields by as much as 30% and triples the speed of plant growth, while using only 10% of water and space. There are lesson plans and learning materials for each grade so the teacher can easily incorporate the garden into the curriculum including literacy, math, science journaling and urban gardening. We have School Champions in both schools – teachers/administrators who are healthy eating advocates & willing to serve as ambassadors to encourage and maintain enthusiasm for the project. It’s all about making it fun while introducing lifelong lessons!
Why Did We Select These Schools?
The Ingleside community of predominantly Black families suffers from the effects of marginal to non-existent long-term food sustainability. According to the CDC Local Data for Better Health, the residents of Ingleside have high levels of diabetes (16%), heart disease (7.5%), high blood pressure (46%) and obesity (42%). There is a great need to introduce these children to healthy food options as they can, in turn, influence their parents. SSAC’s program provides an academically challenging learning environment where kids experience a rigorous curriculum, augmented with science, technology, engineering, and math concepts. Through the integration of problem and project-based inquiry activities, critical thinking skills will be fostered, and authentic learning experiences will be provided. The Tower Garden curriculum fits in perfectly with this mission as it has science modules on plants but also includes math, record keeping, data, prediction & analysis. This is why we’ve chosen both schools.
It’s Time to Party!
As the Tower Gardens grew, beginning from a seed, the children were able to eat off the tower and take home some of what they harvested. We ended the school year with a party where each class could show off their beautiful tower. The Salad in a Jar parties were a huge hit with the kids! They were able to take home their mason jar with a colorful, delicious salad of cucumbers, carrots, tomatoes, corn, chickpeas, and blueberries, topped off with the lettuce they grew. As a bonus, they received a “chocolate treat” that tasted remarkably like a Wendy’s Frosty! They could not believe that it was made from squash, zucchini, carrots, avocado, and cabbage!
It’s All About Partnering!
We have collaborated with an awesome group of people, all of whom are committed to improving the lives of children! Beverly Grandison of Premier Health & Wellness Consulting (premierhealthwellness.com) and Juice Plus was the “boots on the ground” force, with an infectious energy, who provided the education and support in the classrooms to help the teachers and students bring the Tower Gardens to life. She met with the classes regularly to be a presence during their growing experience and share nutritional information in a fun and relatable way! Lisa Winter, Senior Director of Norfolk Public School of Nutrition (www.npsk12.com/nutrition), and her team were extremely supportive every step of the way. They helped to get us in front of the right people to kick-off the program, offered guidance on protocols and allowed us to use the Central Kitchen facility to prepare for the parties and store the ingredients. We purchased the produce from Youth Earn and Learn Jobs-for-Kids©, founded by Karen Bailey (youthearnandlearnonline.org). Their mission is to keep kids off the streets and train and develop the next generation of Leaders, CEOs, and Entrepreneurs. They connect healthy eating with helping Youth, Seniors and reducing the impact of food deserts on marginalized communities. They delivered fresh, healthy produce on time and at a competitive price.
Our goal is to “grow” this project by introducing Tower Gardens to more schools to impact a greater number of children and families. If you would like to donate your time and/or money, please click on “Donate Today” or “Volunteer Today”.