Mission: Project GROWS’ mission is to improve the overall health of children and youth in Staunton, Waynesboro, and Augusta County.
Community Need: According to the 2016 Community Health Needs Assessment conducted by Augusta Health, the top health issues facing this community are directly related to nutrition, physical activity, and weight – specifically obesity. In Waynesboro, 46.9 percent of all adults are obese, significantly higher than the national and state rate of 33 percent. Perhaps most concerning is the recently captured data on youth obesity in the area – in Staunton, Waynesboro, and Augusta County parents reported that 58 percent of area youth are overweight or obese, more than double the national rate of 24.2 percent. It is known that obesity increases the risk for many health conditions including high blood pressure, diabetes, arthritis, heart disease, cancer, and more. It is also know that a healthy diet full of fruits and vegetables can aid in maintaining a healthy body weight and reduce the risk for many chronic diseases. Yet in this area, almost 20% of residents find it “very” or “somewhat” difficult to buy affordable fresh produce, a number that rises to over 34% for low-income families.
It is critical that this community works right away to increase food access and food education for the next generation of children in order to reverse these statistics over time. Research has shown that garden-based nutrition intervention programs “have the potential to promote increased fruit and vegetable intake among youth and increased willingness to taste fruits and vegetables” (Robinson-O’Brien R, 2009). Additionally, “education plus access interventions may be best for increasing consumption of fruit and vegetables” (Barnidge 2015).
Constituents Served: Project GROWS primarily serves youth in Staunton, Waynesboro, and Augusta County, with a small number from Harrisonburg and Rockingham. In 2018, they served 3,839 unique youth through on-farm garden lessons, in-school fresh food tastings, and community education events for a total of 5,909 kid educational hours. They primarily serve elementary-aged youth (K-5) = 78%. Followed by mixed age groups (12%), middle/high (6-12) = 7%, and PreK = 3%. They also serve low-income families by managing three farmer’s markets offering SNAP (Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program) double dollars and WIC (Women and Infant Children) farm fresh dollars, which increase access to affordable local food. Estimated 20 SNAP families served and 180 WIC families. Double dollars programs allow families to spend their benefits at the farmer’s market, and receive twice the value of tokens that can be spent at the market.
Primary Activities: Project GROWS cultivates health through hands-on, garden-based food education and access to nutritious local food. They partner with over 20 local organizations and schools to provide food-based education to more than 4,000 unique children and youth each year both on the farm and in the classroom. Additionally, they grow more than 15,000 pounds of nutritious mixed vegetables on their 10-acre learning farm utilizing sustainable, ecological practices.
Amount Requested: $10,000
Operating Budget: $217,841