Southern Boone Learning Garden awarded five-year grant

The garden takes learning outdoors for children in Ashland.

The Southern Boone Learning Garden has been awarded a five-year Missouri Foundation for Health grant to expand its services and form a Southern Boone Healthy Community Partnership. The HCP will support policy, programming and changes to create a more active community.

This grant totals more than $475,000 and is funded as a part of the Missouri Foundation for Health’s Community Health and Prevention program, which focuses on creating communities in which healthy behaviors and choices and overall good health are common, according to a news release.

SBLG, which is a school and community garden, works with elementary schools in Ashland to help children take their learning outdoors. It began as an after-school gardening club but now serves more than 700 students with the help of more than 60 volunteers.

“We like to take learning outdoors,” SBLG co-founder Jennifer Grabner said. “We once took a group of fourth graders out to a garden and tied it to what they were learning in literature. We want to work with kids to show them where food comes from. We think it is important to teach them about gardening and healthy eating and also about exercise.”

Many components will be new programs implemented as a result of the grant, including garden workshops for youth, SBLG services for older students, Walking School Bus programs for schools in the Southern Boone School District, professional development workshops that combine teaching in the classroom and garden, and assessments of community health needs, according to the release.

The Walking School Bus is a nationwide program in which groups of students walk to school together under adult supervision.

“Because we live in a rural area, students have to walk from far distances to get to school,” Grabner said. “This program will allow parents to drop their students off at community drop-off points. From there they can walk as a group to school. In some areas this will be just for special events, and in others it will be year-round.”

The purpose of this program and others implemented in the grant is to promote safety and exercise for students in Southern Boone County, according to the release.

“We want to get more kids walking to school," Grabner said. "It is a program we have been wanting to get down here for quite some time.”

The grant aims to make Southern Boone Country an example of leading healthy and active lives in rural parts of Missouri, according to the release.

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