Meyer said the size of the garden depends on the school's size, staff and available space. "We have standard size boxes, and we can customize them to the site," she said. "We use local dirt sources and involve the kids in the planting and the growing." The kids plant things such as carrots, tomatoes, lettuce, cucumbers, fruit trees, chard and kale. The program also includes a curriculum on nutrition and why it's important to eat healthy foods.
"We have kids open salad bars with the foods they've grown, and because they put energy and work into that food, they're interested in eating it," Meyer said. "Normally, a carrot will lose out to Cheetos every time. Those foods are engineered to appeal to kids. The garden gives them a green billboard to look at against the cavalcade of ads they're usually bombarded with," she added.
"We're not going to change everything in an instant, but the gardens help give kids a chance to connect to something healthy," Meyer noted.
If parents want to supplement what's going on at school, Meyer suggested an herb garden as a great way to start, especially if you're short on space and time. Container gardens can also work well, she said. But, if you can't do that, take your child shopping with you. Go through the produce section and have them help choose items for your family dinner. And if you live in an area where produce is scarce, Meyer recommended getting together with neighbors and talking to the managers of your community markets to ask for more fruits and vegetables.
Find out about more initiatives that help get kids into healthy eating, here.
SOURCE: Kelly Meyer, creator, American Heart Association Teaching Gardens
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