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Cindy Harper didn’t let a global pandemic stop her from reaching young children in need of nutrition education this past summer. As a SNAP-Ed educator for St. Clair County, she worked with the Pell City Boys and Girls Club to spread her message by providing remote education and implementing a bucket garden on the club’s premises.

Not Giving Up

Teaching is one of Harper’s favorite parts of being a SNAP-Ed educator. When she learned she couldn’t teach the SNAP-Ed curriculum, Eat Better, Move More, to children at the Boys and Girls Club in person, she wanted to find a way to connect with them. Even though the lack of internet connectivity made it impossible to deliver lessons virtually, Harper knew she had a captive audience that was ready to learn. So, she got creative.

“I started delivering letters with healthy messages for the staff to read to the kids,” Harper said. “For example, one letter outlined the importance of getting 60 minutes of exercise each day. I sent ideas about how to accomplish that and enlisted the staff to help them get it done.”

In addition to the messages delivered to program leaders at the club, Harper also sent the children educational materials and “Move More” headbands to reinforce her message.

Bucket Garden

In one of her letters to the club, Harper suggested the children create a bucket garden for growing their own vegetables. She recommended books for the club staff to read to the students about gardening to raise enthusiasm for the idea.

To help make the bucket garden idea into a reality, Harper solicited gardening advice from Bethany O’Rear, horticulture regional extension agent, and St. Clair County Master Gardeners. Harper and her team helped the club plant ten, 5-gallon buckets and four, 20-gallon buckets. Together, they planted cherry tomatoes, bell peppers, squash and eggplant transplants, and planted seeds for cucumbers and green beans.

“I also planted “mystery seeds,” which the kids are eagerly watching and trying to guess what the mystery seeds will be,” Harper said.

The bucket garden was also made possible by donations from Home Depot, Chick Fil A, and Hazelwood’s Nursery, and gravel was donated from the City of Pell City. Harper is also partnering with the St. Clair County Soil and Water Conservation to set up a rain barrel for watering the plants in the future.

Eventually, Harper was able to return to the facility to teach Eat Better, Move More, to the children at the club. She said the plans are to continue after-school nutrition programming and to plant spinach, turnip greens, cabbage and carrots in the fall. Of course, these plans are contingent on COVID-19 guidelines.

“I know the kids have learned about how the food they eat gets to their plates and are learning about making healthy choices when choosing which foods to eat,” Harper said.

The children at the club are provided with two boxes of fresh fruits and vegetables each week from Farmers to Families in conjunction with Central Alabama Boys and Girls Clubs. To help create appeal for the foods the children receive, Harper said she has been sharing recipes with fresh vegetables as ingredients for them to try out at home.

To contact Cindy, SNAP-Ed educator in St. Clair County, call (205) 338-9416 or email her at cgh0048@aces.edu.

To find more success stories about SNAP-Ed educators, visit LiveWellAlabama.com.

Cindy Harper

Cindy Harper, SNAP-Ed educator in St. Clair County


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