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Delta Garden Study picked to join national initiative

By ArkansasOnline

This article was published December 6, 2010 at 12:23 p.m.

The Delta Garden Study was one of 10 programs chosen to participate in a new national farm-to-school initiative in 2011.

FoodCorps named the garden, which is set up through the Arkansas Children’s Hospital Research Institute, as a collaborator to help create jobs in rural communities in Arkansas as well as serve vulnerable children, with goals of improving access to healthy, affordable food and training young leaders for careers in food and agriculture.

“What’s exciting is that our selection as a FoodCorps host site means new money and new jobs in childhood obesity prevention and farm-to-school initiatives for this state,” said Dr. Judith Weber with the Delta Garden Study. “We competed with big-name institutions for this program, and it shows that Arkansas is at the forefront of innovative child health and nutrition programs.”

FoodCorps will put 82 members on the ground in 10 states to work 139,400 hours during the 2011-2012 school year. Utilizing the public service model of AmeriCorps, FoodCorps leverages federal funds to place young adults in high-need communities, with the mission of improving children’s education about, and access to, healthy food.

As a host site, the Delta Garden Study will supervise the FoodCorps service members in Arkansas, creating six new jobs in the central and Delta regions of the state in 2011, with the potential to grow more jobs in subsequent years.

The Research Institute is in the pilot phase of the $2 million USDA-funded Delta Garden Study, which aims to build 1-acre gardens on the campuses of 10 Arkansas schools over the next three years. The study is designed to show how building new gardens — complete with greenhouses, budding crops and composting areas — can help adolescents cultivate green thumbs, log more physical activity, eat healthier and connect with their schools.

FoodCorps service members will build and tend school gardens, conduct nutrition education, and increase the quality of the food served in the lunchroom. FoodCorps also aims to grow the next generation of farmers and food systems professionals through hands-on experience.

The 2011-2012 FoodCorps host sites include:

· Arkansas: The Delta Garden Study at the Arkansas Children’s Hospital Research Institute

· Arizona: Johns Hopkins Center for American Indian Health

· Iowa: National Center for Appropriate Technology

· Massachusetts: The Food Project

· Maine: University of Maine Cooperative Extension

· Michigan: C.S. Mott Group at Michigan State University

· Mississippi: Mississippi Roadmap to Health Equity

· North Carolina: North Carolina State University 4-H

· New Mexico: Office of Community Learning and Public Service at the University of New Mexico

· Oregon: Oregon Department of Agriculture

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