2015 Year End Message from Friends' Board President

| Category: from the Board

Earlier this month, the CDC released a report that noted stubbornly stagnant rates of adult obesity. While the reported statistics are sobering in light of the broad investments in countering this epidemic, there is a bright spot: childhood obesity has leveled off, and in many states, including Maryland, it is falling among youngsters.

Compared to adults, childhood presents the best opportunity for setting trends in the right direction. At Great Kids Farm, students have the opportunity to experience healthy eating in a new context: from the seeds that they plant to the vegetables they select from their cafeteria salad bar. Luckily, this approach to student wellness does not function in a silo—programs have deep connections to academic content and opportunities for career training, making the facility a wise investment for Baltimore City Public Schools. But in a financially challenging year for the district, the support of Friends of Great Kids Farm has become more important than ever.

In schoolyear 2014-2015, Friends raised over $183,000 for the Farm. Working closely with City Schools, we leverage our fundraising and community connections to support critical resources that can’t be sustained by the district:

  • Transportation: No teacher should have to decide if his or her class can participatebased on whether the school or students can pay for a bus. Friends funds bus transportation to ensure all students have equal access to the Farm.
  • Healthy meals: Nutrition content is best received if classroom concepts are mirrored by the choices presented to students. Friends funded farm-fresh, scratch-cooked meal for over 800 students visiting the Farm.
  • Farm-to-Cafeteria marketing: To ensure studentslink their experiences at the Farm tothe produce served in their cafeteria, Friends funded the creation of a series of posters promoting Great Kids Farm vegetables. Posters feature messages and images selected by students, and are distributed to schools receiving farm-to-cafeteria deliveries, reaching over 26,000 students. The posters were recently adopted for statewide farm-to-school initiatives.
  • Infrastructure support: Ensuring the Farm’s 100+ year old campus meets the needs of modern education requires on-going investment. Friends funded an analysis of the Farm’s three historic greenhouses to plan renovations for  improved performance and energy efficiency. We’ve begun raising funds to implement the proposal.
  • Volunteer mobilization: Through our investment in a Volunteer Coordinator and our partnership with Volunteer Maryland, 168 volunteers contributed over 1,000 hours of service to the Farm, dramatically expanding the capacity of the staff to serve students and maintain the campus.

Download the Farm Fresh Recipes booklet for further details on the year's accomplishments (and some tasty recipes)! Click this link to download: fgkf_2015_farm_fresh_recipes.pdf

Our most significant investment of the year was in the Farm’s future. With the support of foundation partners and matching funds from the school district, we devoted over $33,000 to strategic, operational, and evaluation planning. As programs—and Friends’ support for them—continued to grow, we needed need to codify a shared vision and define how Friends’ and City Schools’ would strategically apply our individual strengths toward common goals. Through the development of action plans and a comprehensive evaluation system, and financial planning for the Farm’s production enterprises, we now have tools to impact students across their education:

  • Learning Journeys: STEM-based visits to the Farm will now be a standard part of the7th grade year—meaning every City Schools student will visit the Farm during their education.
  • Farm-to-cafeteria: Through expansion of farm internships and integration of culinary students into produce processing, student will take ownership over each step of farm-to-cafeteria production, expanding deliveries of healthy produce to school cafeterias.
  • Healthy Eating Healthy Living: This program will centralize support for school-based garden and nutrition education, offering opportunities for students, teachers, and families to engage in wellness-promoting activities throughout the year.
  • Work-Based Learning: Student internships will be enhanced by field trips, workshops, and guest speakers teaching essential career skills and connecting students with entrepreneurs in the agricultural and green business sectors.
  • Summer Learning: Adding to the Farm’s historic summer focus on workforce development, we will leverage seasonal peaks production and the leadership of summer interns to engage elementary students in quality summer learning.

So now the hard work begins. Executing the strategic plan will require increased investment from both the school district and Friends. What can you offer to this work?

A contribution of any size will help ensure that hands-on, wellness-promoting, delicious and inspiring instruction is a hallmark of City Schools’ education. Please consider making a gift. We’ve created a diversity of giving vehicles—choose the method that is easiest and most meaningful to you. And don’t miss the opportunity to make a big impact at low cost: gifts of $500 or more received by December 31 can receive half the donation back at tax time.

Thank you for joining with us.

Kimberly Warren

Board President, Friends of Great Kids Farm