Our Community Impact Director, Brittanie Vogen, shares this amazing story of a new partnership designed to bring a love of fresh fruits and vegetables to students in Orange County, VA
At the end of May 2022, the American Heart Association and the Office on Youth initiated introductions for community impact work within Orange County, Virginia. Ashley Jacobs, the
Office on Youth Program Coordinator, has been a crucial anchor in Orange County, allowing for the relationship with the American Heart Association to blossom. The Office on Youth plays a significant role in educating, caring, and partnering with children across the county on numerous topics and programs. Early on, Ashley and I recognized nutrition as being a common goal for Orange County and the Office on Youth’s School Aged Child Care Program.
Discussions surrounding how to improve the health of the kids and community continued, the Association crafted a 30-minute nutrition program to present to children ages 5 to 12 at Gordon-Barbour, Locust Grove, Lightfoot, and Orange Elementary Schools. This program was presented on Thursday, July 21, 2022, to about 72 children. As the Association’s newest Community Impact Director, I adapted our “Getting to Know Fruits and Vegetables: Seasons of Eating” and “Sip Smarter” educational resources to engage the children. Ashley, along with Rebecca Sellers, assisted in supplying items as needed and helped map out the day for planning. They worked closely with their site managers to maximize the impact of the program on the children.
“Seasons of Eating” was transformed into an activity of having the children work in groups of five to identify which fruits and vegetables grow in which season. This activity allowed the children to understand the importance and relevance of getting fruits and vegetables in the seasons they grow as they can be more affordable, easier to obtain, and, if frozen, saved for the whole year round! We transitioned into “Sipping Smarter” by discussing key items to look out for when buying juices and drinks at the store. We then explored ways to make water more fun to drink. The children were able to test out different ingredients with water such as mint, lemon, cucumber, pineapple, and guava juice (100% without added sugars). The lemons were a huge hit! We finished out the program with handouts of everything we talked about and a home bingo card to do with families or loved ones promoting healthy lifestyle opportunities.
The importance of this nutrition program was to lay a critical foundation for future community impact work within Orange County. We are collaborating closely with the Office on Youth and will be examining additional nutritional opportunities with Orange County’s communal garden and long-term assessment of school pantries.
Kevin is the Communications Director for West Virginia and Western Virginia. When not in the office, Kevin is an active performer with the State 35 Comedy Troupe and is the founding member of the Ghostbusters – WV Division fundraising team. He has been with the organization since 2005.