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Salvation Army campers dig gardening
SAgarden 6
Salvation Army summer day campers learn about gardening through a partnership with Kid Time Fitness and their Farm to Table program.

This summer local children will be cultivating their green thumbs through the launch of a partnership between the Salvation Army and Kid Time Fitness, which  has Salvation Army day campers planting, harvesting and eventually cooking their own home-grown produce.

Monday marked the first day of the Salvation Army’s day camp for children and little ones of all ages could be found bent over large planter boxes shoveling soil in preparation to plant corn, just one of the many vegetables that will be grown in the Salvation Army’s new garden. The formerly vacant plot of land is growing into a community garden made possible by the donations of local community members —including an Eagle Scout who created planter boxes and private donors who gave the seeds to make the garden possible.

The garden will serve a two-fold purpose — teaching the campers about sustainable gardens and giving to others as the fruits (and vegetables) of their labor will be donated to the Salvation Army's Social Services department and included in food boxes given to families in need.

The community garden is a new component of the Salvation Army’s day camp born from a partnership with Kid Time Fitness, a local nonprofit that contracts with local facilities in the Modesto, Escalon, Ceres and Turlock areas to bring affordable exercise and cooking classes to children. After utilizing the Turlock Salvation Army’s gym for classes over about a year, Kid Time Fitness approached the Army to join forces for the summer camp so that children could experience their Farm to Table program.     

“Our Farm to Table program provides curriculum and activities for kids to do at each camp including planting, harvesting and cooking the food that they have grown,” said Tanaia Green, president and CEO of Kid Time Fitness. “We hope the kids learn not only how their food grows so they can do it at home, but that they enjoy getting their hands dirty. It’s a good outlet.”

Many children will be introduced to new fruits and vegetables through the Farm to Table initiative and as they learn sustainable food practices, the Salvation Army and Kid Time Fitness hope to promote an overall healthy lifestyle for the little ones.

“The partnership just made sense,” said Ruthie Perez, recreation and education director for the Salvation Army. “Right now we’ve got corn planted, but we are going to have fresh herbs like basil, cilantro, and more. We are going to plant as much as we can.”

Over the course of the eight week camp kids will be able to tend to their garden and another Eagle Scout is slated to help spruce up the area around the planter boxes with grass. When the campers are not planting vegetables, they are involved in Bible school lessons, arts and crafts, trips to Columbia Pool and more. For more information about the Salvation Army’s summer day camp, call 667-6091.