Growing Power is helping to change the eating habits of Milwaukee children by donating and installing 50 tomato gardens to licensed or certified Milwaukee day cares. Growing Power launched the program and installed it’s first garden on June 18th, and in a matter of weeks the program was full and the gardens were installed.
“We want to instill healthy eating habits in these kids when they’re young. If you can get them thinking about it when they’re young, those habits last a lifetime,” said Growing Power’s farmer, founder and CEO Will Allen. Allen helped install the first garden at the Open Doors Learning Center at 8301 W. Silver Spring Drive in Milwaukee. The day care center is just west of Growing Power’s urban farm on Silver Spring Drive.
The children were intrigued and wanted to help. They called him “Farmer Will” and payed close attention to his instructions.
The requirement for the program was it had to be a licensed or certified day care in the city of Milwaukee with space to put the garden. But since Growing Power was donating the nutrient-rich compost, which they grow themselves, the garden could go on dirt or even concrete. In addition to the compost, Growing Power donated several Cherry and Roma tomato plants.
Following the launch, the program reached the maximum 50 day care providers in a week. Many day care managers said they have been interested in doing a garden, but they didn’t know where or how to start. Many of them already include nutrition education as part of their day care curriculum. And many also serve underprivileged children who don’t have much access to healthy food that’s grown without chemicals.
At the Open Doors Learning Center, the children remain excited and the garden is thriving.
Staff members put up a fence around it and the children water it every day. “The cherry tomatoes are popping! They’re still green, but they’ll be red soon,” said Program Director Tabitha Williams.
When the tomatoes are ready to harvest, Williams says they plan to talk to the kids at lunch time about what tomatoes are and why they’re so good for them.
Allen considers the program a huge success. “This is something other people can replicate in their communities,” Allen said. About five Growing Power staff members were able to install all 50 gardens by July 9th. For those who weren’t able to take advantage this year, Growing Power hopes to do it again next summer.