Contact: Wendel Sloan at 505.562.2253
Reporter: Erin Griffith
PORTALES—Caryl Johnson, associate professor of Family and Consumer Sciences at Eastern New Mexico University, recently returned from the poorest country in Europe - Moldova. She presented nutritional information at a two-day workshop titled "Improving Nutritional Health with School Gardens."
The project was sponsored by the Monsanto Fund and the International Federation of Home Economics (IFHE). Teachers, school administrators, school nurses and cafeteria managers from Moldova attended the workshop.
Many children in Moldova often live in year-round boarding schools because either their parents cannot afford to keep them or they have special needs. Because the schools are very poor they have difficulty feeding the children. The hope is that the schools can develop gardens and teach children to develop their own gardens, according to Johnson.
"On the first day of the workshop I presented information about nutrition; the focus being on the nutrients that would be found in fruit and vegetable gardens. The second day I presented lesson plans that teachers could do with students as related to the school garden," Johnson said.
The schools will grow things like tomatoes, potatoes, carrots, beans, squash, fruit trees, grapes and strawberries. The hope is that the gardens will be started by next April, according to Johnson.
"The educators from schools around Moldova had to attend these workshops in order for their schools to be considered for the grant. The grant will help the schools buy seeds, plants and equipment for their newly-established school gardens," Johnson said.
In Moldova the main languages are Russian and Romanian. Because there were presenters from the U.S., the Netherlands and Moldova, translators were provided for the workshop. Johnson was surprised by the Moldovan culture. Moldova has only had its independence since 1991, and is one of the few communist countries left.
"I think anytime I travel I learn a lot about the culture. I was pleasantly shocked that there were very modern buildings in the capital, Chisinau. But there were also row after row of gray-colored apartment buildings that the majority of people lived in," Johnson said.
According to Johnson, anyone who is interested in helping with projects like this one should become a member of an international organization.
"I would encourage Family and Consumer Science professionals and students to join the International Federation of Home Economics because they sponsor projects like this all over the world," Johnson said.
For more information, contact Johnson at 505.562.2516.
(L-R) Dr. Caryl Johnson, associate professor of Family and Consumer Sciences at Eastern New Mexico University, with a street vendor in Moldova who hand-makes dolls.