2009 Sapphire Award

The Education Fund Receives $100K Sapphire Award for Community Health Excellence from the Florida Blue Foundation

The Education Fund won the prestigious 2009 Sapphire Award along with $100,000 from the Florida Blue Foundation for addressing health disparities in Miami-Dade County. 

Recognized for its Plant A Thousand Gardens Collaborative Nutrition Initiative (now called Food Forests for Schools), The Education Fund was one of two nonprofits selected for the top honor and, at that time, the sole Miami-Dade County recipient of the Sapphire statewide award that recognizes nonprofit organizations for demonstrating excellence in addressing health disparities within their communities.

The Education Fund's seed-to-table schoolyard edible garden program was created in 2007 to counter the alarming rate of childhood obesity, diabetes, and other conditions due to poor nutrition literacy and eating habits among at-risk youth in Miami-Dade. Students plant, maintain, and harvest vegetable gardens, during the school year while relating the lessons in the garden to multidisciplinary classroom exercises. Parents take part in planting and attend workshops on preparing healthy meals. 

Positive data from Food Forests for Schools (FFS) participants (CNI at the time) showed an 80% increase in children who reported eating vegetables with lunch and that 88% of parents were preparing healthier foods. FFS has since expanded to 51 Miami-Dade County Public Schools, 16 of which are Food Forests with edible landscapes that grow produce for use in cafeteria meals and to send home to parents.   


The Education Fund awarded the prestigious Sapphire Award in 2009 by Florida Blue Foundation.

“This program is a model of community collaboration, involving key stakeholders—educators, parents, students, chefs, gardeners, community wellness advocates, etc.—in an effort to teach students, and subsequently families, the importance of a nutritious lifestyle,” the committee wrote.   

“With this fabulous confirmation that we are on the right track, we are one step closer to ensuring that every school has an edible garden and every child has improved health and eating habits for a lifetime,” said Linda Lecht, president of The Education Fund.

Since 1985, The Education Fund has raised more than $51 million for Miami-Dade County's public schools. We design, shape, and implement initiatives that involve the private sector in improving our schools and bringing excellence to public education. Funding has subsidized more than 4,550 classroom projects through individual grants, provided more than 10,000 refurbished computers to students and parents, and supported teachers and students with numerous other program and initiatives.

Florida Blue Foundation is a separate, philanthropic affiliate of Florida Blue (formerly Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Florida). Florida Blue Foundation-funded programs are operated by community-based, nonprofit organizations in Florida that serve the health care needs of uninsured and underserved individuals.