Executive Director Jonathan Gardener says Windy Van Hooten is an old term used by members of the circus. He describes the garden as the perfect circus. They plan to use this grant to expand and invite more families to become apart of their show. Now they’re asking the public to help raise money for a grant through the Community Thrives Campaign from the Gannett Foundation.
Citizens can come to the garden on Mondays and Thursdays to pick up items. Gardener also delivers food to neighbors. They also prepare food for a rehab center.
Gardener and his wife started the garden on S 12th Street in Gadsden in 2019, next door to the high school they both attended. The garden has been in the area for years. The Gardeners were happy to take over and provide healthy foods for the community.
Gardener says one of the teaching gardens main goals is to help the future generation lead self sustaining lifestyles. They work in Striplin, Adams and Eura Brown Elementary schools in the Gadsden City School system.
They teach students how to plant food and eat healthy. Gardener believes gardening exposes children to different foods and gives them a sense of pride.
“When the kids can grow it themselves, I think they have more of an attachment,” say Gardener. “Something they accomplish themselves. So they’re more likely to try it and enjoy it.”
Gardener believes these lessons will stick with students and help them have healthier lifestyles as adults. The instruction Gardener provides with the garden lines up with the curriculum instructors are required to teach. Gardener believes the hands-on learning will stick with students and help them have healthier lifestyles as adults.
Currently they teach in three schools, but they’d like to expand to all eight of elementary schools in the city. Gardener plans to use the money from the Gannett Foundation to add an additional teacher to assist with the program. To qualify for the grant they have to raise a certain amount of money in donations.
“Our health system is really over run with diabetes and heart problems. But if you have a healthy diet starting at a early age and continue that your whole life. You’re going to save a lot of money,” says Gardener. “You’re going to live a longer life and be happier in general.”
“Because with two people it’s a lot of work to take on,” says Gardener. “We not only teach but we also maintain the garden. We have to raise three thousand dollars up front before we can even receive this grant. So if you can help us that’ll go a long with us towards being able to hire a teacher soon.”
They’d like to be in all of the elementary schools this upcoming school year. Their goal is to provide healthy foods but also educate students to live a more productive life. If you’d like to help, visit https://bit.ly/36ISSko.
The fundraising campaign ends on August 13th. For more information on the Windy Van Hooten Teaching Gardens, visit https://www.windyvanhooten.org.
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