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Gardening Leads to Heathier Eating Habits

The CDC states that 18% children aged 6-11 are obese, and estimates predict that 80% of children who are obese at age ten will remain obese into adulthood. At home, television advertising can have a detrimental influence on a child’s eating habits. However, we can counter that effect by providing educational programs that educate and inspire children to adopt healthier habits. Early childhood education around nutrition in school can have a major positive impact on children’s health in the long term. By incorporating a program that has a “hands on” component coupled with education about nutrition, changes can happen. Hands-on inspiration can establish a lifelong commitment to healthy habits.

With that in mind the Hoag Hospital Foundation and Hoag’s Mary & Dick Allen Diabetes Center provided funds and support for a school garden at Rea Elementary School in Costa Mesa. Hoag provided soil, seeds and equipment to revitalize the school’s worn down garden. Children participated from beginning to end, from placing soil to digging holes and planting seeds to harvesting. Students were able to experience how food is grown and were encouraged to keep a journal about the process. As the garden began to flourish, students were exposed to new healthy food alternatives and many requested seconds during sampling sessions. Yellow squash, zucchini, tomatoes, snap peas, lemons, cucumbers and cilantro are currently thriving at the Rea Elementary School garden.

“The purpose of the project was to give students a hand-on experience while educating them about the importance of healthy nutrition, encouraging students to try new foods, and reinforcing the benefits of making healthy choices,” said Daniel Nadeau, MD, program director at the Mary & Dick Allen Diabetes Center and Kris V. Iyer Endowed Chair in Diabetes Care.

“The collaboration with Hoag gave the students of Rea Elementary an interactive opportunity to learn about healthy eating from the ground. Participation in the vegetable garden project gave the students an opportunity to learn and develop a sense of work ethic, team work and commitment. They experienced a sense of student engagement, connectedness with the school, pride and personal satisfaction for their work. They were also very interested and eager to bring the freshly harvested vegetables home to their families to eat,” said Laura Garcia-Chandler, RN, MSN, CPNP School Nurse at Rea Elementary School.

At the end of the project, Dr. Nadeau met with Mrs. Cowan’s kindergarten class to give students a hands-on education experience about the importance of healthy nutrition. Hoag also sponsored awards and prizes for best garden journal and artwork, best garden club attendance and most enthusiastic.

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