To engage youth and their families in a web-based hybrid club for farm to school activities as an alternative to school-based activities when schools closed due to the pandemic.
Use of Theory or Research
Farm to school programs increase children's access to and knowledge of fresh and local foods primarily through experiential learning (Kolb's Experiential Learning Theory) such as gardening, tasting food and field trips.
Youth, grades 2-6, and their families who experienced disruption in usual learning and social activities due to COVID-19 restrictions.
Experiential activities are the hallmark of farm to school education. In March 2020 all hands-on, school based activities planned by Extension faculty were cancelled due to the pandemic. Faculty responded by offering garden-cooking clubs using a web-based hybrid approach independent of schools. Faculty facilitated bi-weekly virtual meetings of 30 minutes for 6-8 weeks for youth and their families. Asynchronous activities were also offered via a website, kits, video demonstrations, farmers market vouchers and when possible, farm tours.
Adult caregivers received a survey at the end of the 6-8 week club sessions to evaluate their child's and family's level of engagement including queries on how much time they spent using web-based tools and how likely they were to start a garden.
One hundred and ninety youth, grades 2-6, and their families participated in 4 virtual and/or hybrid clubs delivered by Extension faculty from March 2020 to October 2020. Caregiver responses from the survey (n = 46) indicated 83% of families expanded or started a garden. On average youth and/or families spent 47 minutes per week engaged in program activities including online learning.
It appears that virtual programming can actively engage youth and their families in farm to school education and may be a tool to supplement resource intensive hands-on strategies in the future. Further research is need to determine which components are best suited for web-based delivery vs in person delivery.