Opportunities for adults with disabilities are G.R.O.W.ing in Bismarck-Mandan thanks to a retired Bismarck elementary school teacher.

Pat Weinberg has been named a 2017 Tribune Award recipient as founder of G.R.O.W. (Growing Recreational Opportunities With Friends), a gardening, nutrition and cooking program for adults with cognitive disabilities.

Since its start in 2014, G.R.O.W. has gone from one plot, five gardeners and four mentors to four plots, 27 gardeners and 16 mentors. The group harvested 1,550 pounds of vegetables this season, according to Gail Christianson, a mentor who nominated Weinberg for the award.

In addition to growing, participants receive cooking classes and nutritional education, such as playing bingo to recognize fruits and vegetables.

Christianson said Weinberg has a son with Down syndrome and saw a need for getting that population out and active and improving their nutritional intake.

Christianson has seen a difference, including one gardener who never ate vegetables, asking for seconds of potatoes during a cooking class. Kathy Fraase, another mentor, said there was a gardener who, at first, didn't want to get dirty.

“He mostly stayed on the edge of the garden and just walked around and watched everyone else. Now, he is on the ground planting and digging and having fun,” she said.

Reach Jessica Holdman at 701-250-8261 or jessica.holdman@bismarcktribune.com