One day after the Tampa Bay Buccaneers' dramatic 27-24 victory over the Pittsburgh Steelers, the team continued to plant the seeds for an impactful year on the field – quite literally – with the help of local students and a community-minded partner.
On Monday, Buccaneers defensive end Michael Johnson, tight end Brandon Myers, running back Bobby Rainey, guard Kadeem Edwards, tackle Kevin Pamphile, Buccaneers Cheerleaders and Captain Fear, with the help of UnitedHealthcare volunteers, and local teachers and students, installed five learning gardens at Potter Elementary School to promote the importance of healthy eating habits.
"This is just a great example of getting kids outside, tying in math and biology and science lessons with things that are fun," said Florida Commissioner of Agriculture Adam Putnam, on hand for the unique event. "There's just great participation from the Buccaneers and UnitedHealthcare giving back to their community. Performance on the field, performance in our neighborhoods."
The learning gardens, planted throughout the school's campus, will serve as produce gardens, providing students the opportunity to plant and nurture a garden, while learning about the importance of adding vegetables to a young person's diet.
"It's definitely important for them to learn things like that at an early age so they can start taking care of themselves now and know the importance of that so it becomes good habit as they grow older," said Johnson. "When they're adults, they already have those good habits and they already know how to eat right and take care of themselves."
Bucs players, cheerleaders and Captain Fear joined UnitedHealthcare volunteers and elementary school students to install learning gardens at 7 Buccaneers Academy locations, promoting the importance of growing healthy food.
Monday's visit was the second step in a community project initiated on September 8, when more than a dozen Buccaneers players and 75 UnitedHealthcare employee volunteers gathered at One Buccaneer Place to construct the learning gardens that will be installed.
"We are trying to build healthy communities, and working with the Bucs, we have some shared goals and objectives," said Shannon Loecher, director of social responsibility for UnitedHealthcare. "Coming into all of the Bucs Academies schools, it helps us achieve our mission and build healthier communities with healthier kids."
Along with the event at Potter Elementary, Monday's efforts also included the delivery and installation of learning gardens at six additional Buccaneers Academy schools: Edison Elementary School, Foster Elementary School, Graham Elementary School, LaVoy Exceptional Center, Sheehy Elementary School, and Sulphur Springs Elementary School. In total, 35 learning gardens are being donated and installed at the seven Buccaneers Academy schools this fall.
"I think it's important to keep that connection with the Buccaneers," said Krystal Carson, principal at Potter Elementary. "Again, their presence here influences the children in a mighty way. When they were told they were the class selected to be a part of this project, they were very excited."
Buccaneers Academies, an educational initiative which is impacting more than 12,000 students, aim to inspire, equip, and celebrate students through incentive-based programs and monthly challenges that provide fun, engaging, and motivating opportunities to learn. Throughout the school year, lesson plans that encourage good behavior, reading, writing, and healthy lifestyles are implemented with each of the 21 Buccaneers Academies in Hillsborough County.
"When we mention the Buccaneers, they know the Bucs," added Carson. "The influence is very positive and powerful for our kids. We can actually use that to motivate them to do their work in the classroom."