Columbia Center for Urban Agriculture gets kids to be creative with weekly contest

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COLUMBIA – Staying home has become the new norm, at least for the next few months while we slowly get back to normal life. But while working from home may be working for some of us, parents who are now having to help their kids learn virtually are struggling to figure out how to keep their kids educated and entertained.
The Columbia Center for Urban Agriculture (CCUA) is hoping to alleviate some of that stress by encouraging kids to get creative while they’re cooped up at home.
Each week that school has been online, the CCUA has been hosting the “Stay Home! Weekly Cash Challenge.” Students throughout Boone County are given the opportunity to submit a piece of original art, like a photo, drawing, or poem, that follows the theme selected by CCUA each week. Previous themes have been Veggies on My Plate, Healthy Snacks, Flowers, and Worms.
The idea came after CCUA saw the impact COVID-19 had on their partnership with local schools and organizations, like the Boys and Girls Club, who they work with to educate kids on things like where they get their food from.
“It’s hard to get kids involved right now because typically we work through their schools or organizations” Billy Polanski, CCUA Executive Director, said. “So, it’s meant to reach those kids and engage them in the activities, and right now all those things are closed.”
Polanski said this contest was created to help engage with the kids that they can’t meet with in person.
“What we’re trying to do is get kids engaged with gardening, and the outdoors, and healthy eating, while they’re stuck at home,” Polanski said. “And these pieces of art are sort of artifacts of that.”
Everyone from preschoolers to high school students have submitted artwork for the contest.
But besides being able to show off their artwork, there’s a cash prize incentive. $100 is awarded to whoever gets the most Facebook votes each week, no matter the contestants age.
Cavyn White, who takes a creative writing class at Hickman High School, submitted a poem for the first week of the contest where the theme, “Veggies on My Plate” inspired him to write a poem.
“I basically revolved my poem around childhood nostalgia, and like growing and evolving as you grow older,” White said “I just thought it was something that, you know, people might be able to read and people might be able to relate to.”
CCUA hopes to give more students like White the opportunity to show off their creativity and talent to the community.

“If there’s not any other way we can reach kids, if there’s not a summer program or things like that, if those are closed, we may continue to do this,” Polanski said. “In order to make sure kids out there are being engaged and that we’re getting those messages of healthy habits out there.”
If you want to enter your creative student for the weekly contest, you can submit a picture of their artwork to CCUA’s Facebook page. Deadlines for submissions are Thursdays at midnight.