Cindy Taylor brings gardening into the classroom

By Sheri Trusty, Seneca County Media Relations Coordinator

Convincing kids to eat their vegetables can be a challenge, but SNAP-Ed Program Assistant Cindy Taylor implemented a unique program at Fostoria Junior High School that has kids happily eating their greens. Through a federally-funded mini-grant, Taylor obtained three mobile hydroponic gardens for classrooms serving students with special needs. On April 18, Taylor gave an update on the project during the Extension Advisory Council meeting.

SNAP-Ed Program Assistant Cindy Taylor, left, talked about SNAP-Ed programs during the April 18 Extension Advisory Council meeting. With her are Seneca County Commissioner Bill Frankart, center, and OSU Extension Office Assistant Erin Mancuso.

SNAP-Ed is the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Education Program through Ohio State University Extension. The program is funded by the Food Nutrition Service branch of the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) and is designed to encourage healthy eating and active living.

Taylor, who works out of the Seneca County Extension office, said the obesity rate in the county is over 30 percent. Teaching kids to grow food educates them on healthy food options, encourages wise eating choices, and helps them invest in their own health.

Taylor’s first challenge after purchasing the garden kits was finding a way to assemble them, but, in the end, the students solved her problem.

“The students actually built the gardens,” she said. “They built them in a week, so this was a start-to-finish project.”

The students planted a variety of vegetables and herbs in the garden, including cilantro, lettuce and spinach. Vegetables that take longer to grow were repotted so the kids could take them home and have their own gardens.

“I was told the kids have been serving salads,” Taylor said.

By having hydroponic gardens in their classrooms, the students learned how to plant seeds, care for plants, harvest vegetables and cook simple, healthy recipes.

Seneca County Commissioner Bill Frankart, who attended the Extension Advisory Council meeting, was impressed with project.

“As a farmer, I know how important it is to help kids understand they have the ability to produce their own food,” Frankart said. “Cindy’s work is benefitting our community in many ways.”

The hydroponic garden project was just one way that Taylor brings the message of healthy living into the community. She teaches a variety of food programs in schools that incorporate a lesson, an activity and a tasting.

“I brought clementines to one class because a lot of kids have never had a clementine,” she said. “My goal is to get kids to eat more fruits and vegetables at a younger age.”

Taylor attends farmers markets to talk to local residents about healthy eating, and she distributes “Chop Chop,” a family-focused food magazine that is published by OSU Extension. She also teaches the Cooking Matters class for adults.

“The adults love it,” Taylor said. “The adults cook, eat and laugh together.”

For more information on healthy eating programs, visit