Friday, April 1, 2011

Get Growing…April is Gardening Month!
I had just finished teaching a nutrition lesson to a group of middle-school students, where we tasted fresh herbs made into a yogurt-based dip with cut-up cucumbers and carrots.
On my way back to the parking lot, I stopped at the school’s raised-bed garden and captured this image. There, nestled amongst newly-sprouted greens from last season’s planting was a wind-blown candy bar wrapper, a stark contrast to the nutrition and sustainability we talked about in class only moments before.
For several years, youth in this school have participated in a multi-discipline curriculum that combines horticulture, nutrition and entrepreneurship. They grow vegetables from seed and learn about healthful food choices and fresh produce by preparing recipes. The learning culminates in a one-day student-run farmers market.
The hands-on learning component has been instrumental in getting the students to sample fresh vegetables. They peeled, sliced and stir-fried their way through recipes they could not wait to try. Students devoured two full hotel pans of crispy baked kale and asked for seconds.
Recognizing the importance of connecting youth and the greater community to gardening and nutrition, the USDA announced last year:
"Grass roots community gardens and agriculture programs have great promise for teaching our kids about food production and nutrition at the local level," said USDA Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack. "Learning where food comes from and what fresh foods taste like, and the pride of growing and serving vegetables and fruits that grew through your own effort, are life-changing experiences...”
“USDA Announces Funding to Expand School Community Gardens and Garden-Based Learning Opportunities” Release No. 0420.10, Aug 25, 2010.
So, plan to plant a few seeds this month. As a family activity, look at the colorful photos in seed catalogs, take a trip to your local garden center or discount store. Together, decide on what you would like to grow: green beans, snap peas, radishes, watermelon. Be adventurous—try growing a vegetable or fruit you are curious about and something that has kid-appeal. Go for purple carrots or yellow tomatoes, or create a fabulous pizza garden with sweet peppers, fresh basil and oregano.
When youth and adults plant seeds, whether in pots on a sunny window sill, in a spacious country garden or on an urban farm plot, they also take on responsibility for growing, caring and nurturing, life-giving skills that are rarely listed on the ingredient label of a candy bar wrapper.

1 comment:

Melanie said...

I definitely believe that gardening is one of the best ways to encourage people of any age to eat vegetables. It worked for my parents!