Edible education is the goal of a new partnership between Renown Health and local nonprofit Urban Roots, which teaches kids about where their food comes from. Reno Public Radio's Julia Ritchey visited their farm to learn more about nutritional literacy.
It's fall break for Washoe County schools this week, and about 20 kids are spending that time off at a day camp offered by Urban Roots at their farm in west Reno.
Americorps member Sam Hutmier tells the kids about where they can and can't explore on the property, like the beehives, the hoop house full of veggies … or the empty pig pen.
As the kids begin to ponder the mystery of the missing sows, Hutmier uses it as a teachable moment.
"Some farmers harvest bees, others harvest animals..."
It's this type of real-world learning that Urban Roots executive director Jeff Bryant says needs to happen more often.
"The knowledge of where your food comes from is very limited, unfortunately," he says. "And it's not just something in Reno; this is nationwide and most of the Western world. Your carrots come packaged in plastic and they’re all round ... the concept of a potato is what a French fry is; they don't understand, oh, that's where a French fry comes from."
That's why in addition to day camps, Bryant’s nonprofit works with schools throughout the area to install gardens and provide curriculum on sustainable agriculture.
It’s also why Urban Roots is partnering with Renown Health to transform a one-acre gravel lot near the hospital into its second urban teaching farm, which they hope will make healthy eating and gardening more accessible to city residents.
"What this really helps us do is help us expand our reach in the community ... and it's going to allow us to bring in another set of curriculum where we can hopefully start trying to work with older kids," says Bryant.
Though it's not much to look at now, the vacant property will eventually have fruit trees, a pollinator garden and several greenhouses to extend the growing season.
"There are some urban gardens like at Libby Booth [Elementary], but this is taking it to a whole different scale."
That's City Councilman Oscar Delgado, who leads community outreach at Renown. He says the garden will be much more centrally located for families and kids who live in food deserts and who may lack access to transportation.
"By us setting up shop right in the midst of an industrial area and kind of showing the community that this can take place really anywhere, is a great opportunity, especially to reach out to kids and families in the 89502 Zip Code," he says.
Ideas are still being hammered out for where the food will go — they first have to figure out how much they can grow there. Bryant’s preference is to have some go toward pre-natal care in the form of a Community Supported Agriculture program, also called CSAs.
"If a young mom finds out she's pregnant, the first thing the doctor writes is a prescription for a CSA over the next 12 months. Just take your ticket down to Renown's teaching farm and and pick up your basket every week. I think that would be pretty special."
Renown has invested about $160,000 in the project and will pay another $120,000 to Urban Roots to keep the farm running for the next three years. They hope to have it up and running and filled with kids by the end of this year.