Garden to table nutrition for kids in need will be available year round

The Boys & Girls Clubs and YMCA of Greater Waterville at the Alfond Youth Center started its Sustainable Gardening Program with four raised beds completely managed and monitored by the youth served by the center. This summer there were 15 raised beds alongside multiple in ground beds at the center, according to a news release from Crista Lavenson from the center.

The produce grown is used in their Kids’ Kitchen to feed the more than 200 at-risk youth who attend daily and to fill the backpacks going home to more than 75 families in need every weekend.

The program addresses the more than 23 percent food insecure youth in Maine and 90 percent of the youth served by the center’s After School Program who qualify for free and reduced school lunches, according to the release.

The center received funding to build and sustain a 42-foot diameter Growing Spaces Biodome; the solar powered ecosphere with hydroponics and aquaponics learning labs broke ground two weeks ago and the dome is being built.

The funding was made possible by donors like John and Mark Beaupre, Hannaford, and a recent $50,000 grant from Lowe’s Renovation Across the Nation Program,

This year-round state-of-the-art greenhouse will provide fresh, nutritious produce and herbs to the Kids’ Kitchen and Weekend Backpack programs year round and the children will work on STEM activities, start their own produce stand business at the Waterville Farmers’ Market, and hold community garden days for local enthusiasts.

The annual fundraiser that contributes to the sustainability of this project is the Maine Celebrity Classic in Sugarloaf, which just raised more than $70,000 this year. It’s founder, John Beaupre, lost his mother in 2015, “I needed to find a way to memorialize mom’s love for kids and gardening at the Boys & Girls Club in which I grew up” Beaupre said according to the release.

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