Amount Requested: $10,000 for General Operating Support
Mission: To improve the overall health of children and youth in Staunton, Waynesboro, and Augusta County. We cultivate health by connecting children to nutritious food through 1) hands-on, garden-based education, 2) access to healthy local food, and 3) sustainable food production at our 10-acre farm in Augusta County.
Constituents Served: Project GROWS’ educational programs are available to all children and youth living in Staunton, Waynesboro, and Augusta County. Adults also participate in Project GROWS. We offer skills-based volunteering, internships (high school and college-aged), vocational training, and serve as a host site for Office on Youth placements and other job placements. Individuals and families living at 200% of the federal poverty level or less and/or receiving SNAP (supplemental nutrition assistance program – forerly known as food stamps) benefits may qualify for Project GROWS’ food access programs. In 2015, Project GROWS served 3,065 unique children and youth (both on the farm and in-school) with hands-on garden-based educational programs.
In 2009, Augusta Health’s needs assessment found that chronic disease management was a top health priority in our region, especially related to obesity, diabetes, cancer, heart disease, poor nutrition and physical inactivity. According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) more than 35 percent of adults are obese and childhood obesity rates have tripled over the past three decades to 17%. US medical costs associated with adult obesity were approximately $147 billion in 2008. Both poor diet and lack of physical activity are major contributors to this obesity issue and subsequent chronic diseases. In Virginia, less than 10 percent of youth eat the recommended servings of fruits and vegetables and only 13 percent of children report meeting the benchmark of 60 minutes of physical activity per day, according to the Virginia Foundation for Healthy Youth (2013).
Program Overview: Hands-on garden-based education: We partner with local summer camps, after-school programs, public schools, private schools, home-school groups, and pre-schools to deliver hands-on, garden nutrition lessons that bring the classroom to life. Our lessons and activities incorporate the Virginia Standards of Learning (SOLs), and we are able to host groups of all ages on our farm in Augusta County, from pre-school to high school.
Food Access: Project GROWS manages two local farmer’s markets and a mobile farm stand that all accept SNAP benefits for low-income individuals and families. We also run a Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) membership, where families’ pay at the beginning of the season for a weekly basket of Project GROWS vegetables to be delivered throughout the season (June to Oct). Families living at 200% of the federal poverty level qualify for a “Bounty Basket”- the same weekly basket of vegetables at a highly reduced price.
Sustainable food production: We operate a 10-acre farm in Verona and grow 50,000+ pounds of food annually, with more than 12,000 pounds donated locally to partners such as the Blue Ridge Food Bank, Valley Mission, church pantries, Boys & Girls Club cooking programs, and to families and individuals visiting our farm on Thursday volunteer nights (every Thursday April through September).
Current Operating Budget: $120,424