Suitland Elementary School sixth-grader Quantress Jones, 12, said he wants to become a culinary chef some day.
His career goal materialized Tuesday after hearing from a Largo-based chef who appeared on Bravo TV’s Top Chef Season 7, which ran from June 2010 through that September, and getting hands-on vegetable gardening experience with Prince George’s County police.
“I like that we’re doing good. We’re making food and we’re here having fun with the police,” Quantress said, adding that he would like to learn how to cook spaghetti and pizzas when he is older.
Prince George’s County police invited former Top Chef contestant Timothy Dean of Largo to help launch the department’s new program “Harvesting Seeds of Hope,” a vegetable gardening and healthy eating education program run through the department’s Police Athletic League, a community service-oriented after-school program for youths.
“I’m really excited for them and excited for the police department for coming up with this idea. It’s a positive thing to do for the kids, and it keeps them out of trouble and keeps them in the garden,” Dean said. “It’s a good way to get dirty.”
There are currently about 15 youths involved in the PAL program, which meets at PGPD headquarters every Tuesday evening, and Ervin said the department hopes more youth will join for both Harvesting Seeds of Hope and the overall program.
Cpl. Erika Ervin, the program’s coordinator, said the police department wanted to create a vegetable gardening program to help fight obesity and provide a positive, hands-on learning experience for children.
“The kids are taking an interest in what they grow and what they eat,” Ervin said. “As we know right now, obesity is at an all time high in this country, and we want to kind of tackle that and show them an alternative way of eating.”
About 12 youths spent Tuesday afternoon listening to Dean speak on the importance of growing their own food, and they also began planting two garden boxes behind the police department’s headquarters, where they will meet every week to water and keep up with their crops, which includes tomatoes, lettuce and peppers.
Davalin Jones, 11, of Landover has been in the athletic league for more than three years and said he enjoys all of the activities they do such as sports and field trips, and said he is enjoying the gardening program.
“This is going to help us live a healthier life,” he said. “We’re adding to agriculture to help feed other people.”
After the season of growing the vegetables, which Ervin said will be done throughout the summer, those in the program will visit Dean’s restaurant, Timothy Dean Burger in Largo, and use their crops to make Neapolitan-style pizzas.
As a reward, Dean said he plans to give $100 to the child who comes with the largest harvest as each child will plant their own set of vegetables. He said he wants this program to cause them to want to continue growing vegetables.
“This is all about teamwork, and there’s nothing like planting something in the earth and then seeing the earth make it produce something,” he said. “That’s an eye-opener. Once you do it, you want to keep doing.”