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COVID19 response – Seed Sharing During School Closures

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seeds ready for distribution at school meal sites!As a response to COVID-19, N.C. Cooperative Extension offices are working with local partners to distribute seed packs and start guides to families with kids at home during school closures. Seed sharing has a long tradition in numerous communities and is an act of supporting each other to feed and nurture our whole community, as well as a long history within 4-H and Cooperative Extension.

In our effort to get seeds out to families with kids pre-K-12th grade, we are seeking to offer home-based educational activities to help kids learn about growing while supporting the start-up of home-based gardens to add fresh foods to all our tables. 

This project included 37 county Extension agents have reached over 15,500 families, distributing seeds & seed kits through School Nutrition and other community partners!

seed kit distribution map

Project Overview

watch the ppt webinar video

Already in Action

Morgan KingBrunswick 4-H is sending seed packs out with backpack buddies, accompanied by a trifold brochure that has plant-specific information on planting, growing, and eating. Brunswick County 4-H has put out 600 to date, and positioned to increase this number every week, and is partnering with FoodCorps to get more packs to kids at home. More details

New Hanover 4-H is working with its New Hanover County Schools, Cape Fear Food Policy Council, to send out seeds to fourteen feeder schools. New Hanover Extension has distributed 500 seed packets so far; Each seed packet contains 3 seeds each of tomatoes and marigolds, peat pots and soil, plus how to grow handout with activities both for planting in the ground or in containers. More details

Guilford County Community and School Gardens agent dropped off seeds at a plants in flatsnonprofit community partner, Growing High Point, which has agreed to be a distribution/pick-up location for community, school, and home gardeners that need seeds. Guilford agents also have a plan in place to tape short videos on planting throughout the season to share out. Guilford seeds covid report

Orange County:  Working with Orange County Schools to provide gardening kits Orange County 4-H Gardening kit posterfor distribution at four county feeding sites. Each kit contains vegetable and flower seeds, soil, and peat pots. We are also including a Jiffy pellet for students to see one of those in action as well. Still in the process of completing an information packet to include with the kit. Planning to target 3rd-grade students. Beginning to distribute 100 kits starting the week of April 6. Will monitor how well these are received and we may build more kits for distribution later on. Most of our kit supplies were provided by Southern States in Mebane at no charge.

Other states’ efforts: Ohio State University, West Virginia Extension, Vermont Feed

How To

These ideas are just starting places. Note that this effort will be place-specific and will look different depending on what works best for you and your community.

  1. Coordinate seeds to distribute
    1. Procuring seeds
      1. Where possible, purchase seeds from small local garden stores that are likely struggling to stay open under COVID-19 restrictions and needs.
        1. Because hardware stores have been designated as essential, purchases and pickups from them are still allowed.
        2. Some stores will provide call-in orders and outside pickup; check your local business partners to see what the best options are for social distancing in your community.
      2. Also connect with larger businesses or seed companies for donations.
        1. Donations through the mail, to office or home (where offices are closed and folks are required to work from home).
        2. Some local companies may drop off a large box of donation seeds, so you can coordinate about the best drop off location.
    2. Printed material
      1. Handout might include:
        1. Plant needs and seed starting guidelines
          1. short planting guide with recipe for carrots: plantit-growit-eatit brunswick COVID (edit for your county)
          2. longer activity book New Hanover Activity Book (edit for your county)
          3. Veggie Planting Calendar + Planting Wheel
          4. Planting Methods
          5. Beaufort County Cooperative Extension’s Beaufort Garden stater trifold in Spanish

        2. URL link to Homegrown Video or similar online resource for container gardening & outdoor growing guidelines
          1. Homegrown Container Gardens
          2. Creating Edible Container Gardens in the Piedmont
          3. Home Vegetable Gardening
          4. Look for more resources on the farm to school portal!
        3. Plant + Garden Activities
          1. Upcycled Plant Labels
          2. my plate scavenger hunt
        4. EFNEP recipes highlighting seeds offered
        5. Contact information
          1. Extension Office location and person to serve as contact
          2. list of local businesses selling seeds, plus 
          3. location of any open farmers markets in your area
      2. Other considerations
        1. Where possible, print a how to guide for those who do not have internet access.
        2. Use safe handling practices when bundling seeds and printed material by using gloves and wiping surfaces down. These materials should be treated like you would treat mail, but, to date, no safety concern has been expressed about seed distribution.
  2. Coordinate distribution
    1. Try contacting the School Nutrition Director or volunteer coordinator for your district school nutrition to see if seeds can be made available for pick up or delivery where meals are picked up or delivered or through backpack buddies. 
      1. Recognize that school nutrition professionals are under intense pressures at present and may or may not respond, and may or may not have the capacity to allow for seed kit distribution to be added to the huge distribution efforts they are currently making.
      2. Where they are willing and able, please do not request that only certain age children receive packets, as this would add time and stress to physical distancing during distribution.
    2. Contact your local teachers, CTE, and other education partners to see if there is a possibility of distribution through distance education efforts.
    3. Contact your local food pantries to see if seeds can be distributed with their meal distribution.
    4. Offer free, no-contact pickup at closed or open Extension offices on the honor system.

Additional Resources (specific project resources included above)

see and share grants for feeding kids during COVID-19 school closures!

Questions/Needs/more Ideas?!


Thanks to the farm to school working group developing this project and page!: Scott Enroughty, New Hanover County Center; Morgan King,Brunswick County Center 4H; Quina Weber-Shirk, Guilford County Center; Jonathan Smith, Orange County Center; Kathryn Hoy, NC State Steps to Health; Liz Driscoll, NC State 4-H Youth Specialist; Tes Thraves, Center for Environmental Farming Systems and the Farm to School Coalition of NC