Stark County kids getting more than just food in their to-go meals—they’re getting the foundation to plant a garden

Posted at 10:55 AM, May 11, 2020
and last updated 2020-05-11 19:15:37-04

CANTON, Ohio — So many families are relying on school districts for their next meal during this pandemic. But students in Stark County are getting more than just food, they’re getting seed packets.

It’s through the Putting Down Roots Farm to School Program. The Canton Local School District is just one of the participating districts.

Ashley Ritz, the nutrition services director for the district said originally, they were going to plant gardens at the schools, but because of the pandemic that wasn’t possible. So, they decided to put various seed packets into the grab and go meals they provide for their students.

“You don’t know what you’re going to get,” she said. “It really show our students this is where our food comes from.”

The packets range from vegetables to fruits to pollinators, like flowers.

“We can empower families to know that they have the ability to do something that’s so simple, which is to grow food. It’s very inexpensive, but it’s really the best way, and it’s a small project that we are doing but I think it creates lifelong lessons.”

Each week, Canton Local provides about 23,000 meals.

“A lot of our families, right now, are living paycheck to paycheck or not even that, and it’s just empowering those families to know that you still deserve access to fresh food,” said Ritz.

She said that’s why the Canton South Nutrition and Wellness Facebook posts healthy recipes with the ingredients in the food bags and also is providing step by step tutorials on how to plant the seeds.

“This is the time to get innovative. It’s the time to transform,” she said. “They’re not the traditional serving lines we are seeing, but that doesn’t mean we still can’t serve.”

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