Published on December 08, 2021

Essentia Health supports youth garden program in Virginia

Students in three Virginia Head Start classes will soon have a new opportunity to learn about gardening, food access and healthy eating habits thanks to a partnership between Essentia Health and the Iron Range Partnership for Sustainability (IRPS).

Image (from left to right): Dianne Buhrow, regional nursing director at Essentia Health-Virginia; Marliese Riffel and Lori Schiebe with the IRPS; and Annie Bachschneider with the Essentia Health-Virginia Regional FoundationIRPS’ Lil Gardeners program aims to provide students with hands-on instruction and mentoring in planting seeds and cultivating edible plants. Beginning in January, Head Start students will be introduced to gardening through interactive hands-on activities, followed by planting seeds and learning about plant care. Next summer, Head Start children and their families will have the opportunity to tend to their plants at a designated “Children’s Garden” and harvest the food in the fall.

IRPS board member and volunteer market manager Marlise Riffel said: “Our goal is to expand local food access and to foster social and emotional learning as well as gardening skills in Head Start students. Essentia has partnered with IRPS for years in conjunction with farmers markets and community gardens, and we are excited to continue this partnership.”

IRPS is a grassroots nonprofit organization that facilitates collaboration toward a sustainable and thriving Iron Range focusing on local healthy food and local energy through efforts such as farmers markets, community gardens, Earth Fest and the annual Iron Range Pasty Festival.

“IRPS is making a healthy difference in our communities by improving the economic, environmental and social characteristics of our area through their values of sustainability, fostering personal and planetary health, bringing people together and engaging multiple generations,” said Sam Stone, Essentia Health-Virginia administrator. “We are grateful for the opportunity to support the next generation of gardeners with a $7,610 grant toward their Lil Gardeners program.”

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