The Churchill County Juvenile Justice Center has improved its menu with the Teurman Hall Garden program that brings fresh fruit and vegetables grown from the facility’s garden to the table.
Jessica Stewart, senior detention specialist, said this program, which started last summer, is relatively new to the center.
“The program came together after we had a nutritionist review our menu for the children we have here,” Stewart said. “The nutritionist agreed it would be a great idea if we could get some fresh vegetables and fruit on our kids plates since most of their meals are frozen. It not only would benefit the children but it would help with our budget since we would be ordering less from our food supplier.”
Stewart, an avid gardener, also believes gardening is a beneficial and a positive tool for individuals to know.
“I’ve researched gardening a lot and found several studies that showed kids eat more vegetables and fruit when they’re able to plant, tend and harvest it themselves,” Stewart said. “There is something about being apart of the process and having it be successful that the kids benefit from and want to eat what they produced.”
Stewart said when the program started last summer, the facility only had two raised beds that grew tomatoes and lettuce.
“We’ve been so lucky within the past year to have received grants to support our project,” Stewart said. “We now have the capacity to grow a variety of different produce. Right now we’re growing six types of tomatoes, potatoes, cabbage, onions, peppers, corn and four kinds of melons.”
The facility recently built a hoop house.
“The hoop house will give us another advantage for growing produce,” Stewart said. “It will allow us to grow vegetables and fruit during the colder months. I’m actually very happy with the hoop house; myself, Daren Hammer (juvenile probation officer) and six kids built the structure in two days. I found some plans online and we all just ran with it and it end up turning out really well.”
Stewart said children who have participated in the program gain experience from it.
“The kids who are involved in the program seem to really enjoy being able to go outside and work in the garden,” Stewart said. “I have kids that are no longer in the program ask me how the produce is doing that they planted. They seem to take a lot of pride in what they planted and want to make sure it’s doing well and being taken care of.”
Stewart said she hopes this program will positively impact children’s lives for many years to come.
“I hope people will see what we’re doing here and how it will benefit both the food cost and the facility by supplementing the amount of fresh food that we can bring in,” she said. “I also want people to see the skills that the kids will be learning. I hope the kids will be able to take those skills back to their parents and start small gardens at their home. I want them to be able to enjoy the benefits and the relaxation of being able to work out in the fresh air and getting their hands dirty.”