Penn State's Harvest 4-Health

Posted: March 1, 2011

Jackie Simon, Penn State 4-H Youth Development Educator, and Jim Stanton, Director of Communications and Community Relations at the First Philadelphia Charter School for Literacy (PCS) have spearheaded the new Penn State Harvest 4-Health program.

Based on Penn State’s Growing Greener curriculum, the program includes experiences in horticulture, nutrition, and entrepreneurship. Penn State Extension staff and Master Gardeners Lorraine Busch and Kate Halus taught PCS sixth-graders the science of what plants need to grow as they learned practical lessons in the raised garden plot and in the greenhouse.

Jackie says that she was encouraged by the willingness of students who formerly thought that “vegetables come from a can” to eat radishes and lettuce simply pulled from the ground and scrubbed clean. "They weren’t sure what to expect," she says, “but they were intrepid enough to try."

First Philadelphia Charter was one of three locations for Harvest 4-Health in 2009–10, but this new program is poised to explode this fall with more sites, some with high tunnels (plastic-covered greenhouses) procured through the efforts of Penn State Professor of Horticulture, Bill Lamont. Professor Lamont recently received an award from the USDA Specialty Crops Block Grant via the Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture to build additional high tunnels in Philadelphia. With the support of Michael DiBerardinis, Commissioner of Parks and Recreation, and Susan Slawson, Recreation Commissioner, twenty-five recreation sites have been added to the program.

"There’s time for a fall harvest," Jackie says. "And the recreation sites will allow the program to become more community-centered and possibly intergenerational. Plus, we can grow through the summer when many schools are closed."