On a blustery December day at the Boys & Girls Clubs of Metro Richmond’s Randolph branch, it’s harvest time. Kids are running around in their winter coats picking vegetables for their own salads.
Back inside as the adults mix the veggies, instructor Sean Sheppard of Richmond-based Backyard Farmer asks the kids if they’ve ever seen a dinosaur tongue, prompting lots of roars. He then introduces them to dinosaur kale, a long bumpy leaf. Lots of fun is had as the children eat their healthy pear salads with raspberry vinaigrette.
The program is just one of several funded through a VFHY Healthy Communities Action Teams (HCAT) grant to the nonprofit Greater Richmond Fit4Kids, which works on improving the health and wellness of children by increasing physical activity and promoting proper nutrition.
“A lot of these projects, we wouldn’t be doing them without this HCAT funding,” says Greater Richmond Fit4Kids Executive Director Mary Dunne Stewart. “It helped to have the money secured when we went to other foundations and corporations to get match funding. VFHY was really the primary funder for all these projects.”
In addition to creating school gardens and teaching children about growing healthy foods, other projects funded by the grant have included the Healthy Checkout Aisles partnership with MARTIN’S Food Markets, which offer healthier food options, zero-calorie beverages and healthy lifestyle and cooking magazines as opposed to sodas, candy and entertainment magazines.
Greater Richmond Fit4Kids also works with local health organizations and hospital systems to collect childhood obesity data, offers a toolkit and technical assistance to schools to improve their food environments, and hosted a major symposium on ”growing healthy schools.”