Kids at the Child Development Center grow their own snacks

Khalil Dixon

Children will help cultivate a school-wide garden at Kent State’s Child Development Center in a program that focuses on the environment as part of the classroom learning experience.

The comprehensive laboratory school for the Early Childhood Education Department in the College of Education, Health and Human Services caters to children from 18 months through 6 years old.

Pam Hutchins, program co-coordinator, said the children are intricately involved in understanding where their food comes from.

“The children are deeply invested in planting, harvesting [and] eating what comes out of the garden,” Hutchins said. “Our interest is in moving away from all of the highly processed foods to more freshly prepared items.”

The children harvest much of what they plant in the garden, which started as a classroom project a few years ago. Students from the Nutrition Outreach Program work with volunteers from the Administrative Program to help the classrooms prepare healthy afternoon snacks.

“Children plant throughout the summer and harvest the items from the garden in the fall,” Hutchins said. “They form small groups in the classroom where they may prepare something for snack or for lunch, so they are really seeing the whole process from beginning to end.”

Lisa Meyer, a parent involved with the Kent Environmental Council, praised the school for its focus on the well-being of kids and its numerous contributions to educational and social research.

“The CDC is very interested in the whole child, not just their [academic] education,” Meyer said.

Parents and educators draw community support by maintaining a booth at the Haymaker Farmers’ Market that accepts local, fresh produce donations from vendors and prepares healthy snacks for and alongside children visiting the market.

“The community gets to see the type of lessons that go on at the CDC, both social and academic,” Meyer said. “For the kids at the market, it’s a free snack, plus a chance to get kids involved in the cooking process and eating good food. We made parfaits in an ice cream cone, for portability. The children could choose from in-season berries, local yogurt and granola to pack their cones before heading off to see the produce at Haymaker.”

Meyer, whose son recently graduated from the kindergarten program at the CDC, says it is difficult for parents, especially student parents, to instate healthy diets for their children and provide good nutrition education without the help of educators.

“If teachers support the role of parents in providing good nutrition and nutrition education, it helps everybody,” Meyer said. “For a single parent going to college and trying to finish their education, making a salad every night and getting their kids to eat it might not be the easiest or most practical thing that they can do.”

Community outreach efforts by parents ultimately help the CDC extend its reach and better serve the community of Kent.

“The connection of school and the market seems perfect,” Meyer said. “I’ll do whatever I can to support a school that has supported our family so well these past years. We’ve absolutely loved this school, its accomplishments, and the people there.”

Contact Khalil Dixon at [email protected].