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Garden School Foundation

Bringing kids and nutrition together – from seed to table

The challenge

Obesity rates run high for children and adults in many communities, due partly to limited nutrition education and access to healthy food. Even families interested in growing their own foods may not have a place to do it. Teachers, too, may lack what they need to start and maintain school gardens.

The vision

The Garden School Foundation (GSF) has been working at the intersection of obesity, poverty, health and education for over 11 years in the Los Angeles area. Its central garden, transformed from a paved lot, is the largest, most active urban garden in the city. With help from the Aetna Foundation, the group is launching Eating Healthy in Urban Areas: From Seed to Table. This program is educating low-income kindergarten-through-5th-grade students about nutritional fruits and vegetables. The aim: to increase children’s enthusiasm for – and ability to cook – these foods, while also exposing them to a rich cultural legacy. GSF also is striving to motivate change in eating habits at home and in the community through workshops and focus groups.

The approach

GSF is moving gardening into students' core education by blending it with science and math concepts across five grade levels. They are publishing their creative curricula online so all educators can access them. Working with 125 classroom teachers across five schools, the program provides lessons, recipes, supplies, and plant and garden maintenance. GSF holds 14 Community Work Days, when families garden, share food, and attend educational workshops. The group is also co-sponsoring an event called Parent Focus. Parents can share how GSF’s programs are increasing healthier eating at home – and highlight the obstacles they’ve overcome.

The results

The program is helping 2,600 students in five schools learn more about nutrition and how to grow and prepare fresh food. The program also works with parents to increase healthy food choices at home, and with teachers to integrate garden-based education into classrooms.

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