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Fit-2-Serve is expanding its programs that help bring youth and senior citizens together.

MATTOON -- For the past two years, Fit-2-Serve has been partnering with Williams Elementary School (WES) and increasingly expanding their Community Bridge programs. Each program is intended to strengthen connections between elementary students and members of the community.

"Generation-2-Generation," their initial program, was facilitated by Mattoon High School students enrolled in Family Consumer Science and involves kindergarten and fourth-grade students working alongside seniors residing at local area senior living center. Last year, they piloted their Farm-2-School Community Bridge program with the high school FFA program leading and guiding WES second-graders to increase knowledge of garden processes, culminating with an activity at one of their community gardens.

Last year, Fit-2-Serve embarked on yet another Community Bridges pilot program, Farm-2-Table, in which two first-grade classes at Williams Elementary School participated. The purpose of the Farm-2-Table program is to create interest and knowledge of where their food comes from and how it ends up on their kitchen tables.

Each month, students met to discover the variety of farming opportunities, be it a garden, an apple orchard, vineyard, a dairy or poultry farm. Each class provided opportunities to taste-test, create their own snack, as well as learn about a variety of kitchen utensils and how to use them. One half of each class was held in the new Teaching Kitchen, located in the greenhouse next to the Fit-2-Serve facility.

On the following Monday, the class was visited by a volunteer who read a story and presented a treat that the students had started on their class the previous week. One of the highlights was making Friendship Apple Butter with their friends at Brookstone and sampling their finished apple butter. They also received cards from the residents as well.

With the completion of the Teaching Kitchen last spring, students will be able to actually harvest some of the vegetables in the garden as they walk from the Fit-2-Serve facility to the kitchen. At the end of the school year, a graduation ceremony was held during which each child was given a Farm-2-Table chef's hat and a certificate of completion. The tradition will be carried on for this year's class as well.

They are extremely excited that all six first-grade classes at WES are going to be participating. Shad Huddleston, one of the first-grade teachers whose class participated in last year said it was one of his students' favorite activities and an amazing learning opportunity for the students.

As they embark on the 2017-18 school year, they realize the need for community volunteer support. The classes are held on Fridays at 1320 Lafayette Ave. First classes will be held Sept. 8, 22 and 29; 11:45 to 12:45 p.m. for the morning session and 1:35 to 2:35 p.m. for the afternoon session.

They are in great need of volunteers as Fit-2-Serve is a not-for-profit organization built on the principal that we are to equip others for works of service. There are no paid positions, and time after time volunteers have remarked on how much they've enjoyed making time to be a part of the organization.

Additionally, they would like to invite local business owners and churches to partner in some capacity, and would love the opportunity to discuss ways in which you could be of great help to our efforts in creating and sustaining a community-wide change through our Community Bridges Programs. They would love the opportunity to speak further with you and build partnerships that will truly impact the community.

For more information, contact Dr. William Duey, founder and director, at 708-829-7324 or Cheryl Lee, Farm-2-Table director, at 217-276-3667.


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