Garden Spotlight: VNA Family Play Program

By Livia Donicova

The Visiting Nurse Association (VNA) is a non-profit agency that provides in-home health services to individuals and families. Their programs provide services in Chittenden and Grand Isle counties for all stages of life, from prenatal care and family programs, to end-of-life care.

VNAkidsOperated by the VNA Family Room in Burlington’s Old North End, the Family Play Program uses outdoor education and gardening to promote parent-child play and cross-cultural relationships. The VNA Family Room Garden is at Winooski Valley Park District’s Ethan Allen Homestead. Individual family plots, children’s gardens, and multicultural plots are accessible to anyone. The mission of these programs is to foster strong family connections.

motherchildgardenThe VNA is fully funded by state grants and contracts and supported by private foundation grants and individual donors making their programs free of charge to all participants. Access and inclusion are key aspects embedded in the program’s success. The Family Room provides transportation to the gardens from the Old North End and New North End as well as child care which includes breakfast, snack and lunch.

Sarah Sinnott, of VNA’s Family and Child Services, says that the Family Play Program is really about “enjoyment and community building; the community gardens are for everyone to work and pick from.” The collective efforts increase families’ food security and allows them to stretch their budgets. In addition, the program provides workshops and classes to teach kids and parents how to cook and use various food that they grow. The Vermont Community Garden Network partners with the Family Room for a weekly summer garden activity program. Donations and contributions that the program receives also promotes community inclusion and fosters symbiotic partnerships with multiple organizations and businesses around Vermont.

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Visit the VNA website to learn more about the Family Room and its other programs.