" Crops for Kids promotes local agriculture and teaches children about the origins of food by reaching out and developing relationships with nearby farmers.
Community Action, Inc. of Central Texas offers Head Start and Early Head Start programs at 13 sites near San Marcos. With the leadership of Mylinda Zapata and the funding from a grant awarded by TDA, the organization has implemented Crops for Kids, an initiative that includes several Farm to Child Care activities and supports the Farm Fresh mission for children ages 0 to 4. Each Crops for Kids activity promotes local agriculture and teaches children about the origins of food.
By reaching out and developing relationships with nearby farmers, the sites have been able to coordinate educational field trips to farmers markets and farms. During these outings children have the opportunity to meet farmers and experience firsthand where their food comes from. At many sites, Community Action has built garden beds and container gardens in order to make agricultural education accessible to children every day. Children can play in the gardens with age-appropriate and safe tools while learning about items they can see growing.
The Crops for Kids initiative takes agricultural education even further by incorporating as many local foods into menus as possible. Many items are obtained from community-supported agriculture (CSA) boxes or from the local farmers market. In addition, some of the local foods that the centers use originate from their on-site gardens. Taste tests are often used to introduce these foods to children, as some local food items may be unfamiliar to young palates. By exposing children to nutritious foods during the early critical stages of development, Crops for Kids can instill healthy habits that will last a lifetime.
Community Action also has had success in developing supportive Farm to Child Care relationships with community members. The Texas State University Horticulture Department, the local Texas AgriLife Extension, and local farmers have been key players in building Crops for Kids. Also, Community Action has made an effort to get the support of school staff through trainings on the preparation and presentation of local foods. Crops for Kids also includes parents in Farm Fresh activities by providing opportunities for them to participate in taste tests and by hosting cooking demos for them at the sites.
With the help and support of different community members as well as the work and dedication of Mylinda Zapata, the Crops for Kids initiative has experienced remarkable success across the board. The program continues to sustain and build upon existing Farm Fresh activities and is working toward launching new projects in the near future.