By Patrick DiSalvo
On Tuesday, October 23rd, Kid Power hosted a “Lights on Afterschool” event to celebrate VeggieTime as a recipient of the MetLife Foundation Innovator Award. It is one of only five programs in the country recognized for using innovative approaches to help middle school students succeed in the programs, school and life. Lights on Afterschool was the perfect time to celebrate this award. Organized by the Afterschool Alliance, Lights On Afterschool is a national effort to highlight the value of afterschool programs.
The Lights on Afterschool Event showcased the impact of VeggieTime, a Kid Power program where youth study nutrition and the environment, build and maintain schoolyard gardens, and use produce in both cooking classes and as fundraising for service learning projects.
VeggieTime helps youth make healthy choices for themselves and for their communities. Currently, Kid Power and its VeggieTime participants maintain over 50 garden beds throughout the city!
The youth investment and youth voice was clearly on display at the Lights On Afterschool Event, as students blended Super Smoothies made with kale and berries, discussed the aspects of their business plan for fundraising with vegetables, advocated for nutrition issues, and baked kale chips. Guests bounced from station to station as students shared recipes, experiences and healthy living tips.
Program Director and resident emcee Grant Elliott hosted the presentation hour. While final touches were put on the dinner of vegetable pizzas (using Kid Power garden veggies!) provided by FUEL Pizza, guests were treated to a variety of speakers discussing the importance of VeggieTime:
- Ed Spitzberg, the Vice President of Development for Afterschool Alliance, spoke about the importance of rigorous programs after the school day.
- Jim Donnellan, from the MetLife Foundation, discussed how essential nutrition education and gardening activities are to area youth.
- Malcolm, a Kid Power 5th grade student, read his essay that won the Kid Power Garden at Prospect Learning Center the award of Best Sustained DC School Garden. (See the video of his speech at the Growing Healthy Schools Kick Off event.)
- Ibti Vincent, the Outreach Specialist for the Columbia Heights Community Marketplace, shared her experiences of gardening with Kid Power students and pairing with them to sell vegetables at the Columbia Heights Farmer's Market.
- Harry Hughes, Principal of Harriet Tubman Elementary School, gave an impassioned speech about the positive changes he sees with students who participate in Kid Power afterschool activities.
- Ashley Prather, Vice Principal of Cesar Chavez Prep Middle School, highlighted the impact of the program at her school and how it has aided in her students' development.
- Oneyda Zelaya, a Kid Power parent, talked about how her child's program not only benefited her daughter, but their entire family as well.
- Kevin Garcia, a 6th grade Kid Power student, shared why he loves Kid Power program at Chavez Prep.
- Andria Hollis, Executive Director of Kid Power, treated everyone to a talk about how much Kid Power has progressed in the years she has been with the organization and how the VeggieTime program is a major component of that development.
The event was a special celebration of the community coming together to support our young people in making positive choices. Supporters and Kid Power itself discussed the importance of afterschool programs like Kid Power, and to celebrate incredible youth accomplishments. Kid Power students are truly amazing!
Special thanks to all of our speakers, the MetLife Foundation, and also to a great partner and friend to Kid Power, Mark Maxim of FUEL Pizza. Mark cooked five different varieties of veggie pizza using Kid Power produce, chopped a delicious salad and created a mouthwatering hot sauce from habanero and cayenne peppers from Malcolm's Kid Power garden for chicken wings. You can view the entire menu here, and visit FUEL's website here.