Area 3rd Graders Combine Gardening Knowledge With Healthy Eating Habits

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Over the past 15 years there has been an exponential increase in the amount of fat, salt and sugar food contains. Not only has obesity increased but the amount of juvenile diabetes and high blood pressure cases has seen more than an uptick. In 2010, the NC Department of Public Health presented a study to the state General Assembly addressing methods by which these issues could be approached. The Healthy Harvest program is in part, a result of the department’s response to the obesity issue in our states youth.

Healthy Harvest has been given the task of educating 3rd grade students at select elementary schools about nutrition in combination with introducing them to practical training in how to grow their own food. The study highlights how readily available high fat and high sodium and sugar filled foods are as a reason for increased consumption amongst elementary age children; particularly lunch room items. Of course providing healthy alternatives makes sense and is a great way to make an immediate if not nominal change. But what about in the long term?

In the Healthy Harvest Program, students are taught not only which foods are good for them but how to make these items more readily available for themselves. They are given information about how to grow a number of vegetables and are also provided the opportunity to taste selected items in various forms as well as items they’ve grown themselves.

At each school, common vegetables such as radishes, carrots, red leaf lettuce, kale, spinach and beets were planted as well as some lesser known vegetables like kohlrabi. The Healthy Harvest participants have the opportunity to observe varied plant life cycles and the insects, beneficial and otherwise that played a role in a plant’s development as well as the composition of the soil the seeds were placed in.

Person rinsing a few carrots outside in a bucket

Man teaching children outdoors

Children working in raised bed gardensChildren working in raised bed gardens