Local Not-For-Profit Devoted to Inspiring Healthy Habits In Area Kids
By Dave Woods – Official Kids Mag
Lily Scharnhorst, a student at Fayetteville, enjoyed her Apple Seeds experience. She thinks inspiring a healthier generation is extremely important.
“It was really fun,” she said. “I loved the people teaching it. They were really nice and helped you understand what was happening. In the program they taught us all about food and how to cook it, cut it and the amount and proportion of food that’s healthy to eat.”
Lily so enjoyed the program, and making new friends, she encourages other kids to give it a try.
“I had a bunch of fun,” she explained. “I encourage kids to go. We got to work on gardening and to pick from the garden. We learned some about how they manage the garden. It was fun to make the recipes that were healthy, but still tasted good. It was just lots of fun.”
That kind of praise is music to Mary Thompson’s ears.
“Our mission is to inspire healthy living in young people through garden based education,” Mary, executive director of the organization, said of Apple Seeds, a Northwest Arkansas based not-for-profit. “We reach about 7,000 students each year through our programming. We reach students on our farm, in our kitchen and in the classrooms of area schools.”
Apple Seeds is a local organization devoted to inspiring healthy living through garden-based education.
In fact, that’s the mission statement. The organization was initially formed as an effort in concert with Ozark Natural Foods. In 2007 it blossomed into a not-for-profit organization.
“It was developed by a group who wanted to inspire healthy eating in our youth,” Mary explained. “From that point we’ve been adding steps along the way with a teaching farm, kitchen and programming.”
In cooperation with the Fayetteville Parks and Recreation Department, Apple Seeds occupies a two-acre spot in Gully Park and operates a teaching kitchen there.
The organization is lucky to have a lot of community support for their effort.
“We are lucky so many people want us in Northwest Arkansas,” Mary said. “We have quite a few funders though foundations, such as United Way, the Walmart Foundation and Tyson. We also have a large number of events that act as fundraisers, and a lot of small businesses sponsor programs to ensure that we have this program in our community.”
Mary said she can see the excitement in a kid’s eyes when they make a discovery in the garden, or suddenly grasp something they didn’t know or understand.
“We use the garden as a learning platform,” she said. “We want them to be inspired about where their food comes from and what to do with it. They come out to our teaching farm and experience how food grows. They are just filled with wonder and awe when they see a carrot come out of the ground.”
The Apple Seeds programs don’t stop at the garden gate. The kids participating get real world food preparation and cooking experience.
“They are able to harvest the meal,” she said. “Then we teach them how to cook a simple meal and then they share the meal at a table together out in the garden. All of the programs revolve around the concept of healthy food. We send them home with ingredients so they can make the recipes at home for themselves and family.”
With summer approaching Apple Seeds offers summer camps for kids interested in getting their hands down in the dirt and learning a few things about healthy eating and nutrition, while having fun with old friends and new ones.
“We have a summer camp that anybody can sign up for,” she said. “It is exciting seeing students come out for half a day and they get to garden and cook. They have a lot of fun with their friends. It’s a fun way to experience cooking and learning.”