Tucson Village Farm receives grant to build culinary center for local youth
Tucson Village Farm was chosen as an Angel Charity beneficiary and begins its $445,000 construction on a certified teaching kitchen starting June 28.
The Tucson Village farm, located at 4101 N. Campbell Ave., serves the Tucson community as a source of education for children and young adults looking to incorporate more fruits and vegetables into their everyday diets.
“It's run by the community, for the community and specifically for youth, so kids can learn about where food comes from and how to eat and have a healthy lifestyle,” said Sadie Parent, an incoming high school freshman and an advisor and 4-H ambassador at the farm.
Elizabeth Sparks, 4-H Youth Development assistant agent and facility representative at Tucson Village Farm, expresses the impact of the program and said that people aren't eating enough vegetables.
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"Out of 100 people, only 2 of them are getting enough fruits and vegetables each day. So having people eat more fruits and vegetables will make our community healthier,” Sparks said.
With the new addition, more people will have access to the opportunities offered by the Tucson Village Farm according to Leza Carter, an advisor at the farm.
“We will be able to better serve the 13,000 kids that are already coming the farm each year, and add to that as well,” Carter said.
The Farm offers many programs that encourage children to reconnect to a “healthy food system by showing them how to grow compare, and choose eat fresh vegetables” through programs offered all year long, according to Carter.
“They get their hands in the soil. They plant they water, they harvest, they dig, and we teach a lot of nutrition to these kids,” Carter said.
At the summer camp “kids do their farm chores and they harvest all the food they are going to need to prepare all of their meals for the whole week," according to Carter.
Local schools in the community visit for the farm’s signature program, the Growing Forward program, which a field trip-based initiative. The farm has over 100 schools come out each year from many different school districts and they bring about 250 to 300 kids a week through the farm on field trips. The farm advisers teach them all about where their food comes from, Carter said.
Carter expressed the importance of incorporating more fresh produce into an everyday diet. She explained that with the rise of nutritional diseases such as Type 2 diabetes and obesity, it is important to enable prevention.
Parent explained how all produce is grown on site in the garden beds, available on U-Pick Tuesdays. On U-Pick Tuesdays “there are volunteers in the garden that help direct you of where to pick fruits and vegetables, and what the different varieties are, what's in season. Once you are done picking, you go to the front weigh-and-pay,” Parent said.
Many kids come back to the farm to participate in different camps as they grow older. Parent is very involved at the farm, having participated since September 2017, this being her first year working as a counselor in training at the summer camp.
Parent and Sparks are most excited about their own kitchen space. The kitchen they are currently working in is shared with the cooperative extension office for the agriculture program at the University of Arizona.
“The facility we have at the moment isn't the best. We have mismatched dishes slightly dilapidated, old equipment so it is going to be really nice to have a new facility with new appliances and storage,” Parent said.
Carter is looking forward to the opportunities offered by the new kitchen.
“We will have that space that is health department certified, up to code. It is safe for all age groups, for little ones and adults and families that want to cook together,” Carter said.
Angel Charity has been a huge help in progressing the message of creating a healthier lifestyle.
“In 2013 Angel charity donated money for us to have a volunteer coordinator. As a result of their funding, we were able to have a full volunteer program,” Sparks said.
With 44,000 hours of education delivered this past year, the new facility will offer more opportunities to educate the local youth community.
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