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Valley Telephone Cooperative Inc., UTPA sow seeds of nutrition for area youth
Contact: Amanda Perez, Intern 956-665-2741
Posted: 06/25/2010
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Behind an agriculture shop, on a 20-acre elementary, middle and high school campus lies a nutrition garden that San Perlita students will nurture as part of a curriculum focusing on promoting healthy lifestyles.

Valley Telephone Cooperative Inc. and UTPA are helping area school districts plant nutrition gardens on their campuses.

The University of Texas-Pan American's South Texas Initiative for Child Nutrition through Agriculture Project, funded by the Monsanto Fund, have promoted nutrition and health to Valley schools since 2008 and have formed new partnerships in order to reach more children like those in San Perlita Independent School District.

Their most recent partnership is established with Valley Telephone Cooperative Inc. (VTCI), which has contributed $4,740.87 toward the cost of a nutrition garden at SPISD. San Perlita is the sixth school to be a participant in improving the nutritional well-being of school-age children in South Texas.

"In light of the current state of school finance, we are fortunate to have corporate partners helping us to improve the quality of programs that we offer to our students," said Albert Pena, SPISD superintendent. "We are grateful to UTPA, Monsanto, and VTCI for their continued commitment to helping improve the educational opportunities offered to children at San Perlita ISD and are honored to be selected as participants in this program."

Four IDEA Academy and College Preparatory campuses and the South Texas High School for Health Professions (Med High) have already established and implemented nutrition gardens. Most of them already have productive gardens.

"These schools can definitely set the roots for a healthier lifestyle with these gardens," said Annie Studebaker, ICNA project director. "Our target is to give students lifelong education about nutrition."

Studebaker said these gardens serve as a foundation for a healthier lifestyle and are a valuable tool from which lessons about nutrition stem from hands-on activities that are incorporated into class curriculum. Students have the opportunity to plant, maintain, nurture and harvest the fruits and vegetables grown in the garden. The produce is then given to school cafeterias to include into school lunches.

UTPA, the Monsanto Fund, in conjunction with VTCI, work toward the common goal of giving children a better understanding and appreciation of the nutritional value and relevance for a continuous healthy lifestyle with opportunities for experiential learning that will advance their literacy in health, agriculture and nutrition.

"We are very excited about our partnership with UTPA and Valley Telephone Cooperative to improve the nutritional well-being of students," said Deborah Patterson, executive director for the Monsanto Fund. "In our school garden projects across the country we've seen the positive change in fruit and vegetable consumption when the children participate in growing their own food."

For more information on the ICNA Project, contact Annie Studebaker at studebakeraj@utpa.edu.