New ‘Green Teens’ Gardening Program Grows at Wilton Y

A collaboration of Wilton Youth Service, the Wilton Family YMCA, and Get Healthy CT has resulted in the launch of a new gardening program for teens and middle schoolers called “Green Teens.” The goal is to get more young people involved in the process of creating vegetable and flower gardens through hands-on activities of planning, preparing beds, planting, harvesting and cooking a variety of fresh foods.

Participants in the Y afterschool program and summer camp will tend several raised bed gardens at the Y and Wilton High School. The yield from the Y gardens will stock a summer farm stand at the Y and supply the Wilton Food Pantry, and  some of the produce will be used in culinary classes to teach students how to prepare healthy recipes using fresh ingredients.

Wilton Youth Services director Colleen Fawcett secured a grant from the State Department of Education for Youth Services Enhancement which is being used to fund “Green Teens.” Sarah Gioffre is the project coordinator working with Y Health and Fitness director Mary Ann Genuario, Wilton High School teacher and Organic Garden Club advisor Jim Hunter and Lyn Salsgiver Kobsa of Get Healthy CT.

Hoffman Landscapes and Salem Organics donated the soil and Sweet Peet mulch and delivery, as well as provided gardening expertise on the project. Wilton High School Organic Garden Club donated plants for the Y beds, which include three repurposed canoes no longer in use by summer camp which will be filled with soil and used for gardens.

Green Teens begins this month with Y afterschool students preparing the beds and will continue throughout the summer with campers tending the gardens at both the Y and Wilton High School. Counselors will bring a small group of older campers to help Hunter’s club with weeding and general maintenance during school vacation. Y afterschool participants will continue harvesting when camp ends and the school year resumes in August.

Y executive director Bob McDowell said, “The Green Teens program directly complements all of our Y’s three focus areas of Healthy Living, Youth Development and Social Responsibility. We are very grateful for Colleen Fawcett’s organizing the project and inviting the Y as a partner with Get Healthy CT and Wilton High School. Green Teens builds on our efforts to combat childhood obesity by promoting healthy eating in a way that gets young people involved in the entire fresh food process, which will have a very positive impact on them and their entire families.”

Fawcett commented, “It’s such a pleasure to work with the Wilton Family Y and Get Healthy CT on this gardening project – everyone involved in the planning has been focused on creating meaningful opportunities for young people.   Gardening offers many positive development opportunities for kids – skills such as patience, flexibility, dealing with failed crops and appreciating successful crops, understanding some things are beyond their control such as the weather – these resiliency skills are so important in life. The satisfaction in harvesting, preparing and eating fresh food is something quite special, we hope these programs will spark a life-long interest in some of the kids involved.”

Gioffre went on to say, “Green Teens will expand the gardening opportunities for youth in our community. Gardening offers a world of learning, and those who become involved will get a variety of hands-on experiences from prepping and planting to tending and harvesting.  Young people will learn the business of running a produce stand and how to cook with the produce grown in the gardens. We’ll have Y preschoolers helping to water the plants, afterschool kids planning and planting, and summer campers tending to both the Y and Wilton High School gardens, so it becomes a wonderful opportunity for kids of all ages.”

Mike Hoffman, owner of Hoffman Landscapes said, “Hoffman Landscapes has been headquartered in Wilton for 27 years, so we look forward to opportunities like this where we can give back to the community that has been so good to us.”

Kobsa said, “Get Healthy CT is proud to be part of this partnership.  Our goal is to prevent and reduce obesity in the community by bringing together local organizations to share resources and collaborate on projects that support healthy eating and physical activity.  Green Teens is a wonderful partnership that will teach youth about healthy eating while they actively plant and care for local gardens.  We hope to bring in other partners to assist as well, such as community members who can teach the youth about nutrition or how to cook the produce that they grow. “

For more information on Green Teens, contact Gioffre at 203.834.6241.

Pictured above:  Green Teen program leaders and Y afterschool students are pictured in the garden area in back of the Y where 4 raised beds and 3 canoes will soon be brimming with fresh vegetables and herbs.  Pictured left to right are:  Hoffman Landscapes Project Director Rick King; Y Afterschool Staff member Ken Simeone; Y Fitness Director Mary Ann Genuario; Afterschool student Max English; Y Senior Director of Childcare Programs Kim Murphy; Afterschool students Joe Oresci and Sarah Bell; Y Camp Staff member Lynda Rushka; Afterschool students Andrew Segal and Jack Brush; and Garden Project Coordinator Sarah Gioffre.