When Urban Harvest Director Mason Weaver asks Oklahoma City schoolchildren where food comes from, it’s not uncommon for him to get answers that include “Walmart” and “McDonald’s.”
The Urban Harvest program includes three acres of organic gardens on the campus of the Regional Food Bank of Oklahoma’s headquarters in Southwest Oklahoma City.
The program teaches children from low-income backgrounds about nutrition and gardening. Urban Harvest also provides seedling plants for community gardens in the area.
In raised beds and solar greenhouses, Urban Harvest cultivates everything from strawberries to purple potatoes. There’s even a small orchard with apple, peach and plum trees.
“It’s really nice to be the person who introduces kids to eating fresh fruit off the vine,” Mason said.
The program teaches children not to fear fruits and vegetables and hopefully to make better food choices as adults, Mason said.
Metro-area schoolchildren visit the garden for field trips and day-camp programs at the Urban Harvest garden, and Weaver also visits local classrooms to talk about growing fresh fruits and vegetables.
The children also get to learn ways to cook fresh fruits and vegetables and try some of the produce from the garden.
It’s surprisingly easy to get most of the kids to try new fruits and vegetables, Weaver said.
“Some of these kids are from very low-income homes who are food-insecure,” Weaver said. “So it’s not uncommon for them to clean their plate and then ask for more spinach.”
A donor recently gave Urban Harvest a colony of honey bees, which the program will use to teach children about the process of pollination, said Micahel Leitch, volunteer coordinator for Urban Harvest, who also serves as beekeeper.
“We want to bring the kids out here to experience what it’s like to eat honey right off the comb,” Leitch said.