Like the seasonal crops she plants throughout the year, Margaret Duriez’s passion for community gardening – and nutrition advocacy – continues to grow.
Just in time for National Nutrition Month in March, the latest project launched last week by her Fresh Rx Kids program – an offshoot of the Fresh Rx charity initiative she founded in 2018 – will expand the program.
Located at the Boys & Girls Clubs at the Smith & Moore Family Teen Center of Palm Beach County in Belle Glade, the new offerings will include more gardening, nutrition and food preparation classes, as well as on-site educational gardens, where young participants, under the supervision of Fresh Rx staff members and Palm Beach County Boys and Girls Club staff members will gain hands-on experience learning about the joys and myriad health benefits of growing their own food.
Organizers are counting on the idea that once children are exposed to hands-on gardening and become familiar with new eating habits, they will share them with friends, family and other members of the community. What’s so important about this latest expansion of the initiative is that it serves children who live in “food desserts”, i.e. areas more than one mile from grocers who sell fresh produce.
“We are excited to bring Fresh Rx Kids programming to a new location in Palm Beach County,” said Duriez, a West Palm Beach native and resident of Palm Beach. “As a mother of five children, I know firsthand that education and the introduction of healthy foods at a young age is essential for children to adopt healthy eating habits as adults. of Fresh Rx Kids will help more children in Palm Beach County have access to fresh, nutritious produce and feel empowered to make healthier food choices for themselves and their families.
Jaene Miranda, President and CEO of Boys & Girls Clubs of Palm Beach County, explained that “the vision for our new Smith & Moore Family Teen Center was to create a space for teens to explore career opportunities while being guided by professionals who have first-hand knowledge of the sector. »
Miranda also believes that because the Fresh Rx Kids program will feature local chefs showing children how to prepare the foods they grow, and local producers showing them how to market the produce at local farmers’ markets, it can help members Boys and Girls Clubs to careers. paths.
“We introduce them to agriculture, which is one of the major industries in Florida, while also covering careers in retail, nutrition, and cooking,” she explained.
The young people who participated in the initial layout of the gardens on site are certainly looking forward to what awaits them.
“I’m very excited about gardening corn, carrots and other healthy produce,” said SyNiyah West. “I’m also excited to learn more about the gardening process and to be able to watch the crops grow.”
Draaon Smith is also thrilled to have the opportunity to develop his green thumb: “I’m excited to start cultivating. I think the program will help me support other people. Once I have figured that out, gardening being something I could teach my neighbors.
Lifelong passion for family gardening
Duriez has always been passionate about sustainable community gardening. As a child, she spent her summers on the family’s small farm in Pennsylvania.
When she and her husband – whose family also farmed in his native France – took up growing their own vegetables after the birth of their eldest children (11-year-old twins), it was supposed to feed the Duriez.
“When we started with just 10 rows of crops, it was a way to grow food for our own family,” she explained. “Then when we reached 35 ranks, it became a way to grow food for our family, friends and loved ones. But it was just meant to be a fun, lasting hobby.
As word spread about the Duriezes salads, greens, vegetables, herbs and edible flowers, “we started getting calls from people asking us to sell them what we were growing. »
Lo and behold, in 2016, the couple ran a “commercial” business.
But for Duriez, the goal of the business side of the farm has always been simply to generate enough income by selling her crops to local restaurants and local farmers’ markets to support the community gardening initiatives she’s most passionate about. .
Recently, Duriez decided to manage the farm and Fresh Rx – between raising five children, of course! – had become too time-consuming, so she sold the farm and now focuses solely on Fresh Rx as an independent non-profit organization.
Over the years, the Fresh Rx Program has donated food and gardening resources throughout Palm Beach County, including helping cancer patients maximize their nutrition with its Fresh Rx Patient Program and donating food to families in need during the early stages of the COVID-19 lockdown.
To support the expansion of Fresh Rx Kids and the organization’s other community programs, Fresh Rx launched a selection of farm-to-table dining and meal delivery experiences a few months ago. This gives local philanthropists several options to enjoy nutritious and unique meals, all prepared by some of Palm Beach County’s most accomplished chefs.
The options are:
1. Closes to your door is a meal delivery service allowing individuals to order a four-course meal prepared by a Fresh Rx partner chef, accompanied by a seasonal elixir cocktail created by mixologist Jules Aron. Every meal is delivered straight to her door before her dinner or private gathering. The cost is $175 per person and requires a minimum number of guests of four.
2. Fresh Rx Supper Club is a monthly farm-to-table meal delivery service, allowing people to order from a rotating menu developed by Fresh Rx’s partner chefs. Each meal delivery includes a four-course dinner for four, complete with a bottle of Virginia Phillips wine and a Fresh Rx specialty item. The cost of membership is $3,500 and includes delivery of one meal per month. The program started in January and will continue until May.
3. The chef-to-table experience is a private dining experience prepared by a Fresh Rx partner chef in their own home. The package includes a four-course meal prepared with local and seasonal ingredients, as well as specialty cocktails prepared by mixologist Jules Aron. Virginia Phillips wine pairings are also included. The cost is $500 per person and requires a minimum number of guests of eight people.
Chefs participating in the program include Jimmy Everett of Driftwood; Aioli’s Michael Hackman; Albert Molla and Pierangelo Badioli from Acqua; and Kent Thurston of Cucina Palm Beach. Fresh Rx’s farm-to-table in-home dining experience and meal deliveries are available by reservation through May and a portion of each package is tax-deductible.
To learn more about all Fresh Rx programs, visit freshrx.org.