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OTC Preschoolers to Learn Where Food Comes From

Bed Gardens at OTC
Michele Skalicky

Ozarks Technical Community College in Springfield was recently selected to participate in a program that promotes healthy eating for young children.

The OTC Early Childhood Education Center was one of six organizations in the state to receive a $2,000 grant from the Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services, which is sponsoring the Missouri Farm to Preschool Pilot Project.

According to the Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services,  the program is designed to strengthen the connection between young persons and health foods using strategies such as garden-based curriculums, field trips, taste tests and other activities.

Jennifer Crouch is the OTC Early Childhood Education Center’s manager.

“The grant is being used for raised bed gardens for our preschoolers, so we’ve constructed four raised bed gardens. So, each classroom has their own garden.”

OTC’s Construction and Agriculture Departments designed and built the gardens and helped the preschoolers last week with planting, according to Crouch.

“So, I think that partnership will hopefully be ongoing so that the program is impacting several areas of the college here. And then, we will hopefully keep our gardens growing every year, and it will be a continuous thing.”

Crouch said they’re planning a field trip to Rutledge-Wilson Community Farm Park sometime during the fall to visit a pumpkin patch and learn how pumpkins grow.

The Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services will conduct a series of evaluations during the project to follow the Early Childhood Education Center’s progress.

“They came in a few weeks ago and interviewed our kids on just their recognition of fresh fruits and vegetables, and then they’ll come back in the fall and do that again.”

Crouch is excited about the Missouri Farm to Preschool project.  According to Crouch, “exposing young children to healthy foods early in life has the potential to reduce childhood obesity and positively impact long-term health.” 

The OTC Early Childhood Education Center serves children ages two to five-years-old from across Springfield.  It also functions as a training facility for college students in OTC’s Early Childhood Development program.