Getting young children to try new foods, especially vegetables, isn’t always easy. A handful of M&Ms almost always wins out over a serving of broccoli or carrots. But because of Comcast NBCUniversal, I can now say that is no longer necessarily true.
During a recent Comcast Cares Day, more than 150 Comcast volunteers came out to partner with Square One, a nonprofit organization founded in 1883 in Springfield, Mass. We provide a wide range of programs to improve the lives and circumstances of children who come from disadvantaged families, helping them to build foundations for life-long learning and promote healthy development. One way we do this is through the King Street Children’s Center, where we serve 200 children per day from 3 weeks of age up to 12 years.
On Comcast Cares Day, employees from every sector of Comcast came to King Street to help spruce up our outside play area and construct a new growing station for our children. Beautiful, long grow boxes were constructed and potting soil was provided and loaded to create our very own King Street gardens.
But Comcast volunteers didn’t stop there. They also put together an indoor growing station complete with greenhouse lighting so the children could plant seeds inside, watch them sprout and take root, and then transplant the seedlings to the outdoor gardens during the growing season.
Now we literally have farm-to-table vegetables at King Street. Cucumbers, tomatoes, zucchini, beans, herbs and eggplant are grown seasonally and enjoyed daily by the children, thanks to Comcast.
This is not a small accomplishment. It has changed the lives of these children. With 95 percent of Square One’s children living below the federal poverty level (30 percent of our children are either obese or at risk for obesity because of poor diets due to lack of access to healthy, nutritious foods like vegetables), not many of our little ones had ever eaten fresh vegetables before coming to Square One. Fewer still had ever had the opportunity to grow their own food. Some had never seen a vegetable garden!
But now, during harvest, our children leave their classrooms, go to the gardens and pick whatever vegetable they would like to enjoy with their lunch that day. There’s nothing better than walking by a classroom of 4 year olds and hearing the CRUNCH of a freshly picked carrot.
The impact of Comcast volunteers has lasted long beyond that one day of caring. Their volunteerism has been anything but a one and done. These children are benefitting from healthy eating habits that Comcast Cares Day made possible – and their families are learning and benefitting, too. On behalf of the children and families we serve at Square One, let me conclude with this simple thought: people of Comcast, you have certainly grown on us!