College of St. Joseph has been awarded a grant by the Bowse Health Trust, a department of Rutland Regional Medical Center. The grant awards $88,400 over three years.
Marble Valley Grows, the farm-to-school network run by Kimberly Griffin, College of St. Joseph’s farm manager and wellness coordinator, will use the grant to continue working within Rutland County schools to enhance education and access to healthy food choices. The grant will be used to continue the development of school garden programs as well as the addition of other schools and classrooms throughout the region.
Griffin developed Marble Valley Grows last April and has been working to educate children about healthier food options, to include them in the decisions about the food they are served, educate them about where food comes from, and to empower them to grow food themselves.
“Farm-to-school organizations are all over the state,” Griffin said. “But there was an obvious gap in Rutland County.”
Most of Marble Valley Grows’ work can be divided into three parts: education, in-cafeteria taste tests and food scrap sorting, and outdoor learning in school gardens.
The program currently partners with seven classrooms in five different schools across Rutland County and sends CSJ students to teach classroom lessons, collect food scraps and help build classroom gardens.
“School gardens in many ways become community gardens,” Griffin said.
Community is one of the big reasons Griffin took on the daunting task of creating a farm-to-school network for Rutland.
“The Health Needs Assessment continuously indicated obesity as an epidemic in our county. Part of that is nutrition and nutrition education,” she said. “Marble Valley Grows educates students on healthy food choices, so it will hopefully begin to shift the attitudes toward health in the region.”
Marble Valley Grows partners with organizations including Rutland Area Farm and Food Link (RAFFL), food service providers, Shrewsbury Institute for Agricultural Education, Addison County Relocalization Network (ACORN) and more. The partnering schools include Northeast and Northwest Elementary in Rutland, Proctor Elementary, Christ the King in Rutland and Lothrop Elementary in Pittsford.
The Bowse Health Trust, a department of Rutland Regional Medical Center, has awarded over $4 million to over 55 programs in the local community since 1996. The 2016 grant recipients also include the Southwestern Vermont Hoarding Task Force, hosted by Bennington Rutland Opportunity Council, and the Community Impact Program, hosted by Wonderfeet Kids’ Museum.