Allan Hancock College in Santa Maria is sponsoring Students for Eco-Education and Agriculture’s Santa Barbara County Child Wellness Initiative.
According to a news release, the program inspires children to eat healthy by adding locally grown Santa Barbara fruits and vegetables to their diet to help ward off childhood obesity that could lead to diabetes.
The goal is to raise $40,000 that will go toward the purchase of a colorful, vegetable-themed Farm Fresh Mobile Classroom van that will travel to Santa Barbara County schools as part of SEEAG’s Child Wellness Initiative.
Santa Maria berry growers Rancho Laguna Farms and Titan Frozen Fruit each contributed $3,500 toward the van.
“Agriculture is the heart of Northern Santa Barbara County and a vital part of our career education programs at Allan Hancock College,” said Kevin Walthers, the Allan Hancock College superintendent/president. “We are happy to help SEEAG continue its important mission of educating young students in our community about local agriculture and healthy eating.”
The Child Wellness Initiative began in Santa Barbara County this year. The free program was first introduced in 2017 in Ventura County.
More than 60 schools and 8,000 third-grade students participate each year. Currently the wellness program is held through Zoom. Many of the participating schools are designated Title I, with 50 percent or more of their students enrolled in free or reduced lunch programs.
“We get students enthusiastic about eating a rainbow of colorful vegetables containing essential nutrients that help their mind and body,” said Mary Maranville, SEEAG’s founder and CEO. “Better eating habits are so critical since obesity rates among children are as high as 25 percent in some communities. We can’t wait to roll out the new van and begin in-person learning.”
SEEAG is holding a live online auction from 5:30 to 6:30 p.m. March 25 to raise additional funds for the Farm Fresh van and the Wellness Initiative. An online silent auction will take place March 23 to March 25.
Auction items include farm-to-table dinners, weekend getaways, wine tastings, restaurant and winery gift cards and gift baskets.
For more information, visit hancockcollege.edu.
— Gerry Fall