HUNTINGTON - A garden in a rough neighborhood sparkles, catching glare from half-embedded bits of glass as the summer sun beats down.
Brady Arthur picks up a brown piece of glass from the garden and discards it.
"We see things like this all the time," the West Virginia State University extension agent said. "This area used to be full of crack houses ... so we find a good bit of broken glass."
Arthur also is director of the Sustainable Community Revitalization in Appalachia Through Children's Hands project, also known as SCRATCH.
SCRATCH is a hands-on learning community for youth to grow, produce, process and sell food. The program began four years ago with a community garden that is now named after Maudella Taylor, who was a teacher and mentor for children in the Fairfield community.
It aims to bring more locally grown and healthy food into Huntington by educating at-risk children living in poverty-stricken inner city areas about gardening and sustainability.
The SCRATCH program is operated through the West Virginia State University Extension Service and is in its second year of a five-year plan from a $600,000 U.S. Department of Agriculture grant.
Melissa Stewart, agriculture and national resources specialist at West Virginia State University Extension, said that the university's backing was integral to acquiring money for the program.
"If we didn't have funding to develop the garden and putting in all the bells and whistles to get people interested in that and buy into what we're doing, it would be more difficult," she said.
After the five years, the program should then hopefully be self-sustaining, Arthur said.
The program sees children ages 5 to 14 from the AD Lewis Center and Fairfield East Community Center.
"These are kids that, for the most part, have already learned how to take care of themselves and take care of each other," Arthur said. "They are very resilient kids in this neighborhood. They fill a lot of voids themselves - so that gives them this natural ability to want to know how to make life better for themselves."
Arthur said about 40 children participate regularly in the garden. They use the Junior Master Gardener's curriculum to learn growing techniques and nutritional content and implement these skills to produce their own food.
Children stop by the garden, located on 11th Avenue, almost daily, he said. Two days are structured with different stations and volunteers, and the rest of the week is devoted to garden maintenance. During the school year, it becomes an after-school program.
For the first year of the program, the participants ate the food they produced - like spaghetti sauce - and just last week, they began selling their products to the public.