School garden teaches the importance of healthy eating

News Release Distributed 03/26/10 

School garden teaches the importance of healthy eating

BELLE ROSE, La. – First-grade students at Belle Rose Primary School in Assumption Parish are learning why it’s important to eat more fruits and vegetables through a hands-on project at their school.

Robin Landry, an LSU AgCenter family nutrition agent, is working with teachers to help students learn about healthy eating habits and where their food comes from.

“I knew from working in the parish that this was a school that could benefit from having their own garden to help teach the children about healthy eating habits,” Landry said. “We started last summer planning the garden, then we received some grant monies that actually made it a reality.”

Landry said the project is made possible by two grants – a Healthier Options for People through Extension (HOPE 2) grant through the LSU AgCenter’s Family Nutrition Program and a Fit 4 The Future grant from Wal-Mart, which was brought to her attention by Margo Castro, the Assumption Parish 4-H agent.

The Fit 4 the Future grant also has as a component – the America on the Move program – that incorporates physical activity, which includes participation by 4-H junior leaders.

“HOPE 2 is an ongoing, three-year grant that involves nutrition lessons and physical activity lessons in the classroom,” Landry said. “Also, the school will receive curriculum materials over the next three years valued at about $5,000.”

During two of the years, the program also will include visits by Body Walk, a learning activity that allows the children to walk through a replica of the body as if they were a piece of food.

Landry said because the HOPE2 grant couldn’t be used to purchase plants and seed, the $2,000 Fit 4 The Future grant paid for gardening supplies.

At the recent dedication ceremony for the garden, Earl “Tibby” Martinez, Assumption Parish school superintendent, told the students why the school garden is important and encouraged them to start their own gardens at home.

“My son has his own garden at home. He’s in culinary school, and he has an herb garden,” Martinez told the students. “When he wants to cook something, he goes out to the garden to get it.”

It’s about teamwork, Damian Buggage, the school’s principal, said of the program. And when you see first-graders enjoying broccoli, that’s the beginning of healthier kids, stronger families and healthier communities, he said.

“Our school is 95 percent African-American, and we know the health concerns that are prevalent in our communities,” Buggage said. “So if we expose our boys and girls to exercise and eating right, those healthy choices will hopefully carry over to later life.”

Buggage said some of the students forego the jump rope and other toys during recess in order to do some weeding in the garden.

In addition to the vegetable garden, Landry and Castro were able to get supplies for a deck under a shade tree in the schoolyard where classes can be held outside when the weather permits.

Landry discussed the deck idea with Martinez, and they decided to solicit the help of David Carlino, the agriscience teacher at Assumption High School in Napoleonville.

“My power mechanics class assembled the deck in the shop, and we brought it out here and reassembled it,” Carlino said. “We try to do one community service project each year.”

Landry said a local sugar mill donated the soil for the garden, local residents hauled it for them, and local businesses, including ACE Hardware and LeBlanc Brothers Ready Mix, and community volunteers helped make the garden and outdoor learning area a reality.

“The garden is really making a big difference with the students already,” Landry said. “Teachers have told me they have seen a difference in what the students have been selecting and eating in the cafeteria. Their choices are now more deliberate; they are more nutritious and healthier.”

Castro said she hopes to see a Saturday farmer’s market at the school within the next two years where the students can sell their produce and use the proceeds to reinvest in the garden.

Johnny Morgan

1/4/2011 1:07:13 AM
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