'Truck Farm' teaches kids about food

April 29, 2011 (CHICAGO)

Sunlight, soil and water. Most farmers will tell you those are the key ingredients to growing good food. You might also find that wheels don't hurt either if you're looking to "teach" green.

Tim Magner says he wants children to understand the connection between the food they eat and their own health and wellness. He believes the way to do that with city kids is to bring the farm to them.

"Schools in the food deserts are our primary focus," Magner said, "because they've got the least access. . . It's just a way to engage kids in conversation about health and wellness."

In conjunction with the non-profit seven generations ahead, Magner planted a vegetable garden in the back of this biodiesel pickup truck. He'll move the mini-farm between schools and community centers and wherever there's a captive audience. Charles Gates Dawes Elementary School on the city's Southwest Side is the truck's first stop.

"I learned that you can grow plants almost anywhere and that there's different types of plants that need different types of sunlight," Arthur Joy, fourth-grader, said.

"I had no idea that you could build a garden in the back of a truck," Dalia Lopez, fourth-grader, said.

"That was pretty cool cause there's plants inside the truck and they travel with the truck," Mariah Marales, fourth-grader, said.

For the fourth grade science class, the mobile farm plus the hands-on experience of planting brings the knowledge to life. Their teacher says she hopes her students will become influencers to their family and friends.

"We hope the children do take it home and show their parents what they received and tell their parents about gardening and how simple it is to garden," teacher Amani Abuhabsah said. "We hope the kids get on the bandwagon and encourage their parents to plant outside."

The mobile truck farm is brand new and the organizers want to connect with as many children as possible. To have them at your school or community event, visit truckfarmchicago.org. Also, sevengenerationsahead.org and greensugarpress.com

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