Preschoolers at Truman Montessori School donned straw hats and used colorful gloves and pint-sized shovels Friday to mark the beginning of a community garden designed to teach them about nutrition, healthy eating habits, and leadership and life skills.

Emily Neustrom, coordinator of the Seed to Table program, said the garden planting is planned April 13 and the eight-week program for children begins in June.

Community members are needed to share their expertise in gardening and cooking and to serve as mentors, she said.

Seed to Table is a community garden and education program of the Healthy Living Club, a collaboration of about 24 organizations that received a $1 million grant from Blue Cross Blue Shield of Louisiana Foundation’s “Challenge for a Healthier Louisiana program.”

The grant, awarded to the Kiwanis Club of Lafayette Foundation on behalf of the effort, is matched by about $2 million in money and in-kind services pledged by the Healthy Living Club organizations.

The Seed to Table program is one of several Healthy Living Club projects planned over the next three years to help fight childhood obesity by getting children to be more active and make healthier choices about what they eat.

Children ages 9 to 12 will partner with neighborhood residents and community volunteers who will work with them in the garden and with cooking what they grow and harvest, Neustrom said.

Ray Brassieur, a professor of anthropology at the University of Louisiana at Lafayette, said his students will also be part of the program to observe adults sharing their knowledge and traditions with the younger generation.

“We’re coming here because the neighborhood has the knowledge,” he said. “We’re interested in how learning is passed on and patterns that once were traditional that are new again. Gardening isn’t new, but a lot of people have stopped doing it.”

Trincella Bonnet is a volunteer who will work with children in the Seed to Table program this summer.

“I wanted to help the community and share with the kids what I know about gardening,” said Bonnet, who lives nearby in an apartment managed by the Council on Aging where she’s also trying to start a garden.

Neustrom said students in the program will grow tomatoes, cucumbers, bell peppers, eggplant, herbs and other vegetables in the one-acre community garden.

An official kickoff of the Healthy Living Club program is planned next week. Other proposed programs include new playground facilities, community teaching gardens, after-school wellness education programs for children, breast-feeding education classes and health ministry teams that use a faith-based approach to fitness, according to the Kiwanis Club of Lafayette website.

Updates on the Healthy Living Club initiatives may be found at