Garden Nutrition with Sophia Gibaldi

3 May 2019 10:39 PM | Deleted user

"It's been a long journey, but initially it started when I learned about factory farming/industrial animal farming, which motivated me to become vegetarian but also inspired me to learn how crop lands can be taken advantage of." Sophia Gibaldi is a Nutrition Educator with the Miami Dade Public Schools. Her first encounters with the food system helped her decide to study horticulture at the University of Florida and get involved in growing food herself. To her, gardening is also very fun.

For Sophia, connecting with the outdoors was life-changing. "It's something we've done for generations and feels so human." That connection drives her every day. She will never go back to not growing at least some of her own food. In college, Sophia started off volunteering on a farm and then getting a job as a "farm hand" around the country, in Asheville and Gainesville, and even around the world, in Australia. She also worked as a science tutor and garden mentor at a community space where she implemented a garden. This became a loved learning space for 3rd to 5th graders, using the garden during every lesson.

All of these experiences brought Sophia to her current position as a Nutrition Educator, expanding garden programs in 50 schools in Miami Dade County and incorporating garden food into the cafeteria, weaving this food into the school culture. "They're eating it, and the students are fully comprehending what it really means to connect with your food."

Sophia's key message from her work over the years and especially now are that kids of all ages are desperate to get outside and work with their hands in the dirt. She believes they need it to feel human, and this work at the gardens is very life changing not only for comprehensive academic success, but also for enhancing communication, family relationships, emotional support, physical activity, and excitement about going to school. Despite some kids' troubles at home, being outside in the garden and connecting with this space is a key component to making them a "happy human", in Sophia's words.

Sophia wants to see a world where every kid is working in a garden, and there are so many places to start. Go to your school board meeting and get involved in implementing garden education, or volunteer at a school. The possibilities are endless, and the benefits are priceless.

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