EGG HARBOR CITY — Every Thursday for eight weeks this summer, eight local youngsters learned to do things like grow vegetables, bake bread and pick blueberries.

On Thursday, Aug. 24, the Farm to Fork program culminated with a graduation ceremony at the city’s Nutrition Center, where each of the participants received a certificate and a set of ceramic cookware to help them make healthy meals with their families.

The Farm to Fork program was funded through a $2,500 grant from AtlantiCare and co-sponsored by the Atlantic County Coalition for a Safe Community.

Before receiving their rewards, the children participated in a cooking lesson with Chef Nicole LaTorre from Eat Clean Org, an organization created to fulfill a need for healthy, gluten-free and organic meal options in South Jersey. The vegetables used in the demonstration were all grown by the children during the summer in the community garden next to the center.

Candace Negron, the vice chairwoman of the Egg Harbor City Coalition for a Safe Community, coordinated the eight-week program. She credited AtlantiCare for making the program a success.

“With these funds, we were able to purchase vegetables, plants, flowers, soil, mulch and paint to maintain and beautify our three community gardens,” she said. “We were also able to purchase premium cookware and utensils which our students received to encourage them to cook at home with their families.”

“Our students learned to cultivate the gardens, identify herbs and vegetables and learned how to make healthy meals from Chef Nicole. The students also learned how to make pickles and how to make fresh bread from Paul and Laura, the owners Hammerbacher Bakery in Egg Harbor City.”

Negron added the group also went on a field trip to Mazzo’s Blueberry Farm in Hammonton, where the students saw how the farm operated and got to pick blueberries to take home.

“Our goals are to teach our youth to care for the community gardens and give them cooking classes that will encourage them and their families to eat more fruits and vegetables,” she said. “They really enjoyed making pesto and homemade pickles and worked together as a team to better our gardens this year.

Negron said she hopes to extend Farm to Fork into the fall to teach students how to grow winter crops and can homemade tomato sauce and peach jam.

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