ENCINITAS — Garden to table — that’s the vision guiding a new project at the Griset Branch of the Boys & Girls Club of San Dieguito.
Once complete, kids and teenagers will plant organic fruits and vegetables on a half-acre plot behind the Boys & Girls Club. Then, they’ll take harvested produce to a kitchen and learn cooking techniques from experienced chefs.
With the new garden and kitchen, the aim is to combat childhood obesity and encourage healthier lifestyles.
“Childhood obesity also leads to diabetes,” said Barbara Harper, who is on the Boys & Girls Club’s board of directors and spearheading the project. “And that’s a growing problem. If we can teach them early on to eat healthy, we’d be fighting obesity and diabetes.”
Cultivating vocational skills is another goal of the project.
“If we can get kids interested at a young age in the garden and healthy food, it would be good for them personally,” Harper said. “But it could also branch out and they could develop a trade, like in gardening or water conservation. Looking at the kitchen, they could learn culinary skills at a young age that translate into a later job.”
On a similar note, the Boys & Girls Club is also looking to open a snack shop to sell healthy food from the kitchen. Teenagers would run the shop, giving them valuable business and budget experience.
When the project is finished, a variety of nutrition and gardening classes would be offered, both after school and at summer camps. Harper noted the garden would serve locals as young as 5 years old all the way up to seniors in high school.
“Kids love to help mom or dad in the kitchen,” Harper said. “And kids who go home with a recipe they like could show it to their parents, so we could be educating parents as well.”
On March 20, the Boys & Girls Club hosted an open house to give an overview of project amenities.
Apples, blueberries, raspberries and spinach — an array of fruits and vegetables would be grown on the half-acre plot. Along with produce, plans call for a fountain, orchard and amphitheater at the spot.
Work on the garden should begin in six months or so, and it’s expected to open to the community in about a year. Construction started on the kitchen in January; it will be up and running in roughly two months for a summer camp program.
So far, the Boys & Girls Club has raised $115,000 for the kitchen and $75,000 for the garden. Donations are coming from a mix of individuals and private foundations.
It’s estimated an additional $115,000 is needed to complete the garden and kitchen.
The project is modeled after Solana Beach’s Harper Branch of the Boys & Girls Club of San Dieguito. Since debuting in 2009, the garden and kitchen have provided residents with fresh produce and community education.
The Boys & Girls Club currently offers a variety of summer camps and after-school programs; it primarily serves low-income families. For more information about the project, visit centerforahealthylifestyle.com.
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