Local child care center celebrates healthy eating with pumpkin patch

mhankerson@newsobserver.comOctober 21, 2013 

— With a slew of pumpkins and a few decorative bales of hay, the front lawn of Cathy Lee Development Center looked like a small pumpkin patch.

Children, ages 1 to 5, rushed through the small area to claim their own pumpkins and admire the larger ones they would help carve later.

At Cathy Lee, Wendell farmer Angie Inge Horne provided pumpkins for children to take home and sweet potatoes for the center to use as snacks.

“Most children think you get fruit and vegetables from the grocery store,” said Debbie Watkins, director of Cathy Lee Child Development Center. “They don’t think any further than that so we’re trying to plant a little seed in their head about how important farmers are and how vegetables and fruit grow and how you take care of them and how you put it all together and you have a meal.”

Horne, whose father was a wholesale produce farmer, said her family does similar activities all around the area at child care centers.

“It’s not like a commercialized thing,” Horne said. “We basically get to get on the tractors and go out there in the fields … the real farm experience.”

Horne’s family grows pumpkins, sweet potatoes, soybeans and wheat. She said her husband is especially enthusiastic about farming and she was having trouble finding a way to use all the pumpkins and potatoes he was growing.

She would sell them at the farm and at her house, but she still didn’t know what to do with the smaller pumpkins. She called local childcare centers to see if there was a way they could use them, and since then, Horne has been working with several centers, children centers and churches to show toddlers the world of farming.

“A lot of kids think that everything you get at the grocery store just magically appears at the grocery store instead of knowing that it really comes out of the dirt and people are farming and it’s hard labor. … I love when they are able to actually experience (that),” Horne said.

The event was part of a nine-week program Cathy Lee Development Center’s participated in to teach children about where their food comes from. The program, Farm to Child Care, is a pilot program created by Advocates for Health in Action (AHA), Wake County Cooperative Extension and Wake County SmartStart. It helps local child care centers serve local and fresh produce as snacks or meals to increase children’s access to healthy food.

All summer, Cathy Lee Development Center received local produce to prepare and serve with the children at the center.

In addition to a pumpkin patch, Horne brought sweet potatoes for the center to prepare as part of their lunch. Watkins said the children will help wash and prepare the potatoes, like they did during the summer with other local produce.

AHA said the Farm to Preschool program is an effort to reduce the number of overweight children and to help support the local farming economy.

The organization encourages taste-testing activites, field trips and farmer visits, like the one at Cathy Lee, to help with their mission.


Hankerson: 919-829-4826; Twitter: @easternwakenews

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