Head Start Partners with Rowland’s Pennsylvania Produce to Provide Fresh Food to Families
WILKES-BARRE, Pa. (July 20, 2022) – Ready, set, grow! Luzerne County Head Start, Inc. (LCHS) is helping families bring farm fresh produce to their tables this summer as part of its farm to early childhood education (ECE) initiative. Farm to ECE is a group of activities that offer increased access to healthy, local foods to enhance the quality of early learning programs and improve the lives of the program’s children, families and staff.
Children who a part of LCHS’s year-round Early Head Start home visiting program and those enrolled in Head Start preschool summer services receive a grocery tote of fresh produce to take home each Wednesday for three weeks in July. In total, $5,000 worth of produce purchased from Rowland’s Pennsylvania Produce, Falls, will be distributed to these children and their families throughout July. The project provides fresh food to more than 130 children from birth to age five and their families.
Head Start, Executive Director, Lynn Evans Biga, says, “Early exposure to a variety of fruits and vegetables increases the likelihood children will continue to practice good eating habits later in life. Nutrition affects cognitive skills, behavior, and overall health, which all have an impact on academic performance. It is our belief that children need to be well to do well.”
Biga says the partnership with Rowland’s allows Head Start to help provide families with more healthy eating options for their children they might not otherwise be able to afford. In addition, the agency is also helping to support a small business by purchasing local.
William Banta, who co-owns the farm that has been in his wife’s family for three generations, is thankful for the partnership this opportunity has provided. Banta says it is a tremendous help to their small business.
“The COVID-19 pandemic presented a number of challenges for us. Farm expenses have risen and our regular sales have been reduced, especially to restaurants. Many never re-opened and others haven’t fully bounced back. This opportunity fits right into what we aim to do.”
While Banta admits farming can be challenging work, he enjoys working together as a family and the relationships he has formed with charitable organizations like Head Start.
This is the second year LCHS has participated in this initiative with Rowland’s. Last year, funding was provided by a grant from the Pennsylvania Head Start Association. This year, the program is supported by money from the American Rescue Plan – Early Childhood Relief Funds.
Farm to ECE activities support healthy eating habits, a connection to local food and agricultural communities, and teach children how food grows. LCHS is an income-based program that provides early childhood education and comprehensive services to pregnant women, children birth to age five, and their families in Luzerne and Wyoming Counties.
Photo Caption #1: LCHS employees assemble bags of locally grown vegetables for children and families as part of farm to ECE initiative.
Photo Caption #2: Head Start children who are part of the agency’s summer learning program receive bags of produce. *First names of the children are provided in the body of the email.