Learning from books can be great, but sometimes gaining new skills and knowledge is easier if you experience something firsthand. It’s why kids across Springfield are getting their hands dirty during lessons in their schoolyard gardens. Called “Dig In R-12,” or DIRT, it’s a project of the Springfield Urban Agriculture Coalition (SUAC) that’s designed to teach kids about the importance of eating healthy, fresh food. Today, Mercy Clinic’s “Force for Good” presented SUAC with a grant for $16,650 dollars to fund the project.
SUAC has nine schoolyard gardens in the Springfield R-12 school district. SUAC provides lesson plans, materials and volunteers to teach garden lessons that are rooted in science and align with Missouri’s state education standards. Some gardens, like the one at Field Elementary, feature high tunnels to protect crops in colder months and allow for a year-round learning experience. Materials and equipment require money. “Without community partners, SUAC would not be able to do what we do,” said Dan Soetaert, SUAC executive director. Today's check presentation coincided with "Dress Like a Farmer" day at Field Elementary.
Force for Good also presented a check for $5,000 to the Hornet Loft at Hillcrest High School. It’s a school clothing bank that provides everything from shoes and everyday clothes to formals for dances and hygiene items. “It’s elevated the self-esteem of our students and met many of their needs,” said Coach Jeni Hopkins.
Force for Good is celebrating its tenth anniversary. In winter of 2003, Mercy Clinic doctors and co-workers got out their personal checkbooks to raise funds for local nonprofits. It was so successful, the effort has become a tradition with grants awarded twice each year. So far, Force for Good has given back nearly $1.6 million to the Ozarks. More grant presentations from this round are scheduled for next week.