The young members of the East Boston YMCA’s Ashley Street branch recently celebrated their harvest of vegetables
grown at the branch’s outdoor garden as part of the Farm2Future program. Farm2Future is a partnership between the Y and PopCorners, a Framingham-based company that makes healthy popped-corn chips. The children at the Ashley Street branch started vegetables from seed inside then transplanted them earlier this spring into specially-made gardens created to teach youths about how fresh vegetables are grown regardless of living in an urban or rural setting.
The boxes of seeds, tools, instructions, and garden games were supplied by PopCorners.
“The company’s new Farm2Future program is a social initiative to bridge the gap between family farmers and young people,” said PopCorners spokesperson Jacque Shluger. “The company is partnering with the YMCA of Greater Boston this summer to showcase healthy eating with the young members to inspire them to make healthy food choices. Each summer, the YMCA of Greater Boston gives its young members more than 200,000 free snacks and meals so this experience will also help grow fresh alternatives too.”
East Boston YMCA Executive Director Ann-Margaret Gutierrez said lessons like the importance of healthy eating and sustainable practices aren’t easy concepts to teach kids.
“But when you make learning hands-on and fun, it’s much more relatable to them,” she said. “When kids are part of the soiling, planting and watering of the garden, they take pride of their work and are more likely to try the healthier options. You can give kids store bought vegetables – but if you teach them why sustainable food practices are beneficial, you’ll instill healthier choices options.”
At the recent harvest event, Gutierrez was joined by representatives from PopCorners and James Morton, President and CEO of the YMCA of Greater Boston.
“PopCorners is committed to Do One Better,” said Shluger. “It’s in how we choose to source our Non-GMO corn — from family farms in Nebraska, to our air-popping, never friend process and it’s in the quality of the products we produce. We ask our fans and consumers to Do One Better, inspiring and inviting each person to live their best and fullest life. As described on the back of our package, it may mean running farther, laughing louder or snacking healthier, whatever it is that you can do to take one step forward, we celebrate.”
Shluger said Farm2Future is an expression of how PopCorners is “Doing One Better”.
“We are committed to positively impacting the future of food, which starts with educating and informing the next generation on where their food comes from, how it’s made and why nourishing their bodies can impact how they act and what they bring to the world,” she said. “Children in the Greater Boston YMCAs are learning how to Do One Better in the garden, for themselves and for their community. Each week the children are tracking their “Better Garden, Better Me, Better Us” accomplishments. In their gardens, the children learn how to grow strong and healthy fruits and veggies through garden curriculum provided by PopCorners, that includes instruction and activities. The kids are also learning how to Do One Better for themselves, some of their ‘One Better Me’ examples are “making my bed”, “drink lots of water”, “no littering”. And “For A Better Us” (this is the YMCAs mantra), the children are learning how fueling and nourishing their bodies helps them think, act and be their best for themselves and those around them. We’ve seen the kids are looking for ways to help each other more, ways they can be helpful in their YMCA space and with their peers and program leaders.”
Shluger said it’s PopCorners hope is that this program promotes more thought at a younger age about food, nutrition and health and ultimately impacts overall well being in these communities.