Developmental Disabilities Institute (DDI), the leading service provider for children and adults with autism on Long Island, is the recipient of a $25,000 grant from The Nature’s Bounty Foundation, to foster healthy eating habits. The grant will provide healthy food choices and life skills for individuals being served with autism and other developmental disabilities at DDI’s Children’s Residential Program.
“The Nature’s Bounty Foundation is committed to supporting programs that facilitate wellness in our local communities,” said Brian Wynne, President of The Nature’s Bounty Co. North America. “DDI is planting a seed that will provide participants the skills to plant, maintain and harvest a garden, prepare vegetables and fruits they grow themselves and incorporate these and other healthy foods into their daily diet.”
In 2016, DDI’s Children’s Residential Program (CRP) began a Learning Garden Program with two Tower Gardens®. This program allowed students to participate in the planting and maintenance of the gardens, and the produce has been used to make healthy salads and vegetable breads. The grant from The Nature’s Bounty Foundation will build on the success of the Learning Garden Program with the purchase of a Tower Garden for five additional residential children’s homes. With each Tower having the capability of producing 20 different types of fruits and vegetables, two additional Towers will be used for a CRP Healthy Habits Organic Farmer’s Market to benefit the surrounding communities. In addition, DDI is partnering with local culinary arts community programs to provide demonstrations and teach techniques to create nutritious, flavorful meals.
“These Towers will make it possible to not only provide fresh produce for the students, but also enable them to learn in yet another way as they build on their knowledge of healthy food choices, self-awareness, and responsibility,” commented DDI’s Project Leader Tracey Ryan. “The Farmer’s Market will also aim to have the students improve life skills as they grow, package, and share produce to our Long Island neighbors. The monetary donation will be reinstated back into the Learning Garden Program for maintenance and supplies, creating a long-term, self- sustaining project.”
DDI’s Children’s Residential Program, providing individualized education and support to children with developmental disabilities between the ages of 5 to 21 whose needs exceed what can be addressed by traditional special education services, has been designated a Center of Excellence by the Office for People with Developmental Disabilities (OPWDD). DDI is playing a key role in setting new standards for the care of children in residential settings across the State. DDI’s CRP is one of three programs in New York officially designated as a Center of Excellence for children with complex disabilities.
“The grant from The Nature’s Bounty Foundation will support our efforts here at DDI to assist individuals with autism and other developmental disabilities to become more independent and able to lead self-sufficient lives in the future,” stated John Lessard, DDI’s Executive Director.