Tribune-Courier features editor
According to the Kentucky Agriculture Department the numbers are staggering:
• Only 13.2 percent of Kentucky’s youth eat fruits and vegetables five or more times a day, compared with the national average of 21.4 percent;
• 40.5 percent of Kentucky students drink one or more soft drinks per day, compared with the national average of 33.8 percent;
• 59 percent of American high school students skip breakfast three or more times a week; and
• 37 percent of Kentucky youth are either obese or overweight.
Last June Marshall County was chosen as one of ten counties to receive a grant from the Kentucky Department for Public Heath. The grant was given to the county as part of the Farm to School Program, which connects schools and local farms with the goal of serving healthy meals in school cafeterias, supporting local farmers and educating youth about healthier diets.
Paul Rudd, Registered Dietitian with the Marshall County Health Department has taken this project under his wings, along with many members of the community. Lori Kent, Marshall County Health Department employee applied for the grant and once Marshall County was chosen, the Health Department and community decided to direct most of that funding toward the purchase of a greenhouse.
“We’re blessed in this community to have individuals and groups that have great interest in the growth and development of our youth and community. They utilize their abilities, talents and resources to provide opportunities that make Marshall County a great place to live and receive an education,” Rudd said.
The project has involved a group effort with countless individuals from a variety of backgrounds making it possible. County workers, under the direction of Supervisor Gary Teckenbrock, assembled and placed the greenhouse; The Marshall County Board of Education provided gravel and electricity for the greenhouse; Principal Chuck Blanchard agreed to take on the project at the school and assisted in structural placement of the greenhouse grounds and compost for the raised beds; Marshall County Senior Citizens helped the students plant the garden in the raised beds; South Marshall Elementary Team Ultra students and Ms. Teresa Davis, health department school nurse, monitors and cares for the garden.
In addition, Lincoln Martin, agent from the Marshall County Cooperative Extension Office, was a valuable resource for initiating gardening with assistance through his Master Gardner’s Program and soil testing. Vicki Wynn, agent from the Marshall County Cooperative Extension Office, provided knowledge regarding farming and farmers in the community by using displays and samples of locally grown foods with education in the cafeteria. Mr. Shane Darnall, MCHS instructor and his carpentry class built raised beds with materials provided to them; Mr. Doug Lyles, MCHS instructor who oversees greenhouse facilities at MCHS, provided many useful tips on greenhouses along with a tour of the grounds at MCHS. Marshall County Co-op and Tru-Value were also a valuable resource for knowledge in planting and greenhouse grounds upkeep.
The greenhouse is located behind South Marshall Elementary and is maintained by the students in the after school program, Team Ultra. Team Ultra members update students on the growth and progress of the vegetables during morning announcements at the school. Although the greenhouse was started by the Team Ultra, Rudd expressed that it does belong to the school and in the future he hopes to see other classes take advantage of it.
On Friday, Wynn, Rudd, and Randy Grayson, senior consumer nutrition major from Murray State University, visited South Marshall Elementary School during their lunch hour. They passed out strawberries from Wyatt’s Farm in Gilbertsville and shared information with students.
“We want the kids to really understand where the food starts from and how it gets into their homes and grocery stores,” Wynn explained.