Reflective of its name, City Green exists to promote and provide “green space” in urban cities for the purpose of increasing access to healthy, local food; increasing awareness of the benefits of eating and growing healthy food; and to educate and encourage people to not only be out in nature, but to appreciate it, too. Like GBCA, City Green’s work is in response to community demands, which Executive Director Jennifer Papa, took on in 2004. The initial purpose was to provide the local communities in Paterson and Clifton, New Jersey with farming and educational opportunities that its residents did not otherwise have access to. Eventually its services expanded, and are now offered throughout New Jersey.
GBCA Head Start of Paterson is enrolled in City Green’s “Farm to Preschool” program, which offers outdoor garden classrooms, teacher training, and on-going support for partner schools. Throughout the partnership, GBCA Head Start is able to provide its kids with outdoor classroom experiences, allowing students to interact with the natural world, gain an understanding of where food comes from, and learn the benefits of freshly picked fruits and vegetables. GBCA Head Start teachers and dietitians were also trained by City Green staff on how to teach a 12-month long garden-based curriculum that encourages gardening with the students to connect outdoor garden lessons to those in the classroom.
As part of their partnership, City Green repaired GBCA Head Start’s garden beds, adding new soil and installing tree planters to prepare the school for the Farm to Preschool program. Each teacher received a curriculum book, which highlights a different, seasonally appropriate fruit or vegetable every month as a lesson for the kids both inside the classroom and outside in the garden.
As part of the program, City Green visits the school periodically throughout the year for lessons and to interact with the students.
Together, Greater Bergen Community Action and City Green are actively fulfilling their community-based missions. GBCA Head Start children are benefiting from an expansive curriculum that goes beyond their typical indoor classroom, and offers them a chance to become acquainted with nature and all of its advantages. Twice in the 12-month program, City Green also travels to GBCA Head Start in their Veggie Mobile to bring a farmer’s market experience to the kids. At the Veggie Mobile Farmer’s Market, each class gets an opportunity to go outside and learn what a farmer’s market is and how fresh and locally grown produce is made. The organization also provides an “Eat Better Tonight” (EBT) workshop during which GBCA Head Start students go out into the garden to harvest locally grown, fresh fruits and vegetables, bring them back to the classroom to learn about them, and then make a healthy snack to eat that day during snack time.
City Green’s School Grounds Manager, Abbey Daniel, was particularly pleased with the way that GBCA’s established curriculum and food options aligned with City Green’s lessons on fresh fruits and vegetables.
“One of the things I love most about our partnership with GBCA is that you have a staff of dietitians at all times. What I noticed is that what the kids are eating at lunch is reflecting what they’re learning in the garden and classroom about healthy eating. And so I feel like the more touch points that kids have to healthy foods in the garden, classrooms, and on their plates, the more likely they are to establish these healthy behaviors at an early age.”