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From Seeds to Sprouts to Chef Sprout’s kitchen

May 24, 2017 • by Reading Recreation Commission
Fresh Vegetables

BB&T employees support Reading Recreation Commission’s Chef Sprout garden project 

Reading, PA…Reading Recreation Commission is pleased to announce that BB&T Bank – Lighthouse Project, has donated $1500 to support the Seeds to Sprout Garden project, and 20 associates from the Temple, Exeter, Downtown Reading BB&T offices and Reading Business Center will volunteer to create a garden from start to finish at the Rec Commission’s 11th & Pike Recreation Center on Wednesday, May 31 and June 1, 2017. 

The BB&T team is being captained by Nick Kersikoski, Market Leader, BB&T Temple office, and his co-captain is Rob Sanchez, also a Market Leader, BB&T Downtown Reading Office.  BB&T chose the project, according to Mr. Kersikoski, because “the importance of healthy eating initiatives among the young demographic can lead to healthier lifestyles and more balanced diets.  The focus of the “Seeds to Sprout” and “Chef Sprout” programs will teach young individuals the importance of eating healthy at home and focuses on the importance of family around the dinner table.  The BB&T Lighthouse Project will allow us to get the entire process started, getting our hands and jeans dirty to improve the lifestyles of so many children.”

Chef Sprout is an urban-focused cooking program, now in its fourth year, that teaches at-risk urban youth how to prepare healthy meals using limited resources available to them from local, corner grocery stores.  In Reading, where many residents live below the poverty level, transportation and access to grocery stores and Farmer’s Markets is limited.  As a result, many city residents report buying the bulk of their food needs at local corner grocery stores where many of the options are processed foods.   In addition, due to budget constraints, all middle-school home economics classes in the Reading School District have been eliminated leaving a huge void in life skills education.  The curriculum for this program uses only the ingredients that are readily available to participants to prepare delicious and nutritious meals.  Areas of focus for the 6-week program include choosing healthy ingredients, food safety, food preparation techniques, cooking techniques, and plating and presentation.  Chef Sprout, Tony Lavigna, a local chef who owns his own catering business, TLC, conducts the program after school at both the 3rd & Spruce and 11th & Pike Recreation Centers, at the YMCA Reading Branch, Northwest Middle School, (free of charge and supported by the Reading Recreation Commission and generous donors), and a new class being held on Saturdays at 3rd & Spruce Recreation Center that is available to children outside the City of Reading for a small fee. 

The Seeds to Sprout program was developed two years ago to teach children how the food they use for the meals they prepare come from plants and gardens, not just appearing at the local grocery store in refrigerated bins.  This program was made possible through two grants from Community General Hospital Healthcare Fund of Berks County Community Foundation, which allowed the program to expand to both the YMCA Reading Branch and Northwest Middle School, and provided funding to grow seedlings and create urban gardens featuring herbs and vegetables used in the recipes that Chef Tony (Chef Sprout) creates each week. 

Seeds to Sprout gardens are being developed at 3rd & Spruce and 11th & Pike Recreation Centers, and at the YMCA.  At Christmas, any child who has ever participated in the Chef Sprout program was gifted a Taco garden kit or a Pizza garden kit.  Heather Boyer, Program Supervisor, Reading Recreation Commission, marveled that the seedlings have been cultivated since winter and are very healthy and ready to be planted in the newly created gardens.  “This project and program is possible because we have generous people in the community, like BB&T Bank and Berks County Community Foundation, who recognize the importance of teaching children how to grow and prepare healthy, nutritious foods.”

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