Some preschool children in our community are staying healthy and fit by growing a garden, making a salad, and eating their veggies with assistance from their teachers and the Green SPROUTS project. The Orange County Health Department’s Environmental Health Program has partnered with Early Learning providers in the community to reduce childhood obesity using a teachable stewardship program entitled Green SPROUTS, Sustainable Practices to Reduce Obesity Using Teachable Stewardship.
The project was funded through the Building a Healthy Parramore Coalition’s activities, which encourage healthy choices and active living. The Coalition membership includes local healthcare providers, government agencies, dietitians and grassroots community and faith-based organizations that are working closely with families and children in the Parramore/Holden Heights area to reverse and reduce the trend of childhood obesity. More information about the Coalition can be found at www.ROCKFL.org.
The Green SPROUTS project established and sustained 1-2 school garden beds at 6 participating Early Learning Centers with a total of 195 children participating in the project. The participating centers included: Callahan, Frontline Outreach, Grand Avenue Primary Learning and Orlando Tech, Head Start Centers, Harvest Baptist Christian Academy and one private home daycare.
“Green SPROUTS helped make a difference in the lives of many children and families that attended the Early Learning Centers involved in the project. Gardening was an educational tool to help these children and their families learn more about healthy eating and physical activity by working in the garden and eating their own grown vegetables,” said Dr. Kevin M. Sherin, Director of the Orange County Health Department.
More than one-third of children in the United States are overweight. Obesity in children increases their risk for serious health conditions. Research has demonstrated that there is a link between obesity and poverty. In Parramore, eighty-three percent of children between the ages of 0-17 years live 200 percent below the poverty level (Parramore A Call To Action, 2011). In 2009, Hebni Nutrition Consultants conducted a survey which revealed that the Parramore community is a food desert. While a lack of access to proper nutrition may contribute to families not eating the recommended levels of fruits, vegetables and whole grains, a knowledge deficit could be exacerbating the problem. Because of these alarming statistics, these centers in the Parramore community were targeted.
The use of bucket garden beds, introduced the concepts of: ‘garden to plate’, making healthy choices, the benefits of good nutrition and the importance of being physically activity. Each participating center grew a salad, tomatoes, carrots, radishes, lettuce and cucumbers. Throughout the project children were introduced to the importance of eating 5 fruits and vegetables a day, learned the difference between “sometimes” and “anytime” foods and the value of being active and eating healthy. The project closed with a final harvest celebration.