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Pre-School Youngsters Mind Their Peas and Cucumbers

Essex County College News,  November 4, 2016

The children of the College’s Child Development Center (CDC) know a thing or two about the importance of fresh fruits and vegetables in their diets, thanks to the partnership Essex has with America’s Grow-a-Row (AGAR). AGAR is a non-profit organization that grows and distributes fresh fruit and vegetables around the state.


Essex and AGAR got together this past spring and volunteers regularly visit the CDC to offer workshops to the children and bring them fresh produce to take home. The children even got to visit the facility in Pittstown, Hunterdon County, on October 14.


Volunteers from AGAR came to Essex November 4 to pass out their final bags of produce of the season to the children. After first helping to bring in the boxes of produce, Supervisor of Physical Education Building Operations Gerald Holloway and a team of his student volunteers filled dozens of bags with the food along with recipes and other information.


AGAR’s Heather Mulvey, Jules Palmer and Susan Kalfaian went to each CDC classroom, talked to the children and handed them the bright blue produce-laden bags. “They are so cute,” said Ms. Mulvey as the children smiled broadly as they accepted the bags.


Standing on the side, CDC Director Deloris Grimsley proudly watched the children. “This program has turned out to be more of a success than I expected,” she said.


“Children are not always exposed to fruits and vegetables. I was very pleased that the parents quickly came on board and they look forward to the packages their children bring home.”


Ms. Grimsley said the children can identify the fruits and vegetable and, most importantly, they like them.


The initiative with AGAR was spearheaded by Dr. Elvy Vieira, Dean of Community & Continuing Education and Workforce Development, and Joana Ramos-Ribeiro, also from the Continuing Education office.  Noting the success of the program, Dr. Vieira said, “This has been an excellent experience for the children.” The College worked closely with AGAR Director of Programming Julie Rusin to develop the right program for the pre-school children.


“This has been a wonderful experience for the children and parents of our Child Development Center and we would like to continue our participation in the initiative.  AGAR’s team of volunteers was super and we greatly appreciated all of their hard work and efforts to deliver and distribute fresh produce to our campus,” said Dean of Student Affairs Keith Kirkland.


AGAR began in 2002 and last year donated over 1.2 million pounds of fresh fruits and vegetables around the state The organization assists various hunger relief agencies  and works with schools, community centers, houses of worship and offices about nutrition, healthy eating, the hunger crisis, farming and volunteerism.