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Kate and Justin Rose help kids go for the green with aeroponic gardens

September 22, 2017

By Patti Putnicki, Purpose2Play.com

Last year, we told you about the amazing work Kate and Justin Rose are doing to impact disadvantaged kids in Florida. Through their Foundation, they’re “feeding hungry tummies and curious minds,” with food, books and experiences that expand these children’s perception of the world in a positive way.

This year, through a grant from Dr. Phillips Charities, they’ve taken their efforts to the next level—launching an innovative aeroponic garden program that doesn’t just feed kids, but helps them learn where their food actually comes from.

The program, which was piloted at Orange Center Elementary in Orlando, brings the farm directly into the classroom, in the form of vertical growing towers on wheels. Each class goes through the entire process of planting, studying, harvesting and bagging the produce, following a special STEM curriculum developed by Green Bronx Machine.  After every harvest, the 10 towers rotate to other classrooms, so each of the school’s 344 students have the opportunity to participate.

Not only does the program provide the fresh vegetables to kids who wouldn’t otherwise have access to this produce; but it teaches them science, math and nutrition in the process.

“When students grow food at an early age, they develop a taste and appreciation for it, as well as the integrated sciences aligned to it,” Kate Rose said. “Now, more than ever, children need to understand what real food is and isn’t; and the impact it has on their health, their performance and the planet.

Planting the Seeds of Healthy Eating Early On

That first harvest was used to introduce the program to the entire school.

The children “picked” the 10 towers of lettuce, washed it, cut it and bagged it. The teachers set up a salad bar where, in addition to the school-grown lettuce, students could add tomatoes, carrots and other salad items to smaller bags. Everyone was sent home with the produce, a packet of salad dressing and information on the garden program, so the whole family could enjoy what the children had grown and created.

“I was astonished at how much excitement harvesting their crops generated. The children also had a real sense of pride in what they had accomplished,” Kate said. “I asked a lot of the children whether they would actually eat the salad at home; but, they were all adamant that they absolutely loved salad and would be eating it all.  If that’s the effect growing their own vegetables has, then I consider this program a wholehearted success. I am even looking at getting an aeroponic tower for my own home to see if it can have the same effect on my children!”

The kids weren’t the only ones who loved the project. The teachers reported unexpected bonuses as well, from the luminescent glow of the greenery to the soft sounds of the periodic mists that seemed to calm the classroom.

A Little Food for Thought

It’s important to note that Kate and Justin Rose aren’t just the celebrity hood ornaments of their Foundation. They, along with Executive Director Sara Moores, sponsors and volunteers, are directly involved with every program they create. When appropriate, the Roses bring their two children—eight-year-old Leo and five-year-old Lottie—to the schools the Foundation serves.

“Justin and I both feel it is very important for our children to understand that not everyone has been born into the same environment, and the fact that we are in a position to offer some help to children in need is an honor,” Kate said. “Our son Leo gets a kick out of visiting on ‘Book Trust’ days when the children receive the books they have chosen, as he and I are both bookworms. For some children who may be experiencing challenging home situations, books can provide an escape and a respite.”

Little Lottie likes to pack the backpacks full of food for the Foundation’s “Blessings in a Backpack” program—although her chats with the children as they come through the line can slow things down. But, no one is complaining.

With any hope, these two will soon embrace salads with the enthusiasm of the children in the gardening program. Although that, according to Kate, is still a work in progress.

More Programs, More Lives Changed in the Future

Going forward, the Roses hope to expand the garden program to more schools in Florida, and bring Foundation programming to more children who need weekend nutrition and books. At the same time, they’re committed to keep innovating, coming up with programs that help children realize that life has possibilities—for everyone.

“There are many programs available to elementary-aged children that are similar to what we are doing. But, there are scores of children still in need of food and educational opportunities. Many of the children we serve have never been out of their neighborhoods,“  Kate said. “By creating new and innovative programming, it is our hope that we open their eyes to opportunities beyond their neighborhoods; to generate interest in an idea they may not have thought of before. We look beyond the need, to what could be.”

At the time of this writing, Justin Rose is heading to the 2017 TOUR Championship at East Lake Golf Club in Atlanta, the grand finale of PGA TOUR season. No question, Justin is a competitor.  Yet, it’s undeniable that the Rose family is so much more than trophy cases and accolades.

“There is no greater gift than when a child says, ‘thank you,’” Kate said. “We have been very blessed in our lives and truly feel we have an obligation to help others. Providing children with something as simple as weekend nutrition; seeing the happiness a new book brings, teaching them to grow vegetables, or letting more than 1,700 children know that, each weekend, someone out them cares about them, really touches my heart. “

It is the very thing that makes Kate and Justin Rose—and the children they serve—the real winners, no matter what happens on the course this weekend.

According to the Kate and Justin Rose Foundation, $100 feeds a child for a year; $85 provides books for one year, $4,000 provides an aeroponic tower. To find out more about these programs, about sponsorship opportunities, or to donate, please visit their web site at kjrosefoundation.org.

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