With school about to start, it’s important for kids to develop healthy eating habits in order to gain an edge both in and out of the classroom. This is especially true in Kentucky, which ranks third in the nation in childhood obesity rates.
Over the last few years, several local initiatives have sought to address the obesity issue in Kentucky by working to improve children’s health and wellness. One trend that has sprouted throughout the area is the growth of gardens, where children can cultivate fresh fruits and vegetables while learning about the importance of these foods.
“A lot of (Kentucky’s childhood obesity) has to do with basically a lack of knowledge about choices and in some cases a lack of access,” said Congressman John Yarmuth. “First thing we have to do is help kids understand what eating healthy is and where the food comes from. It doesn’t just come from a convenience store. I think this is an important part of education because if they’re not healthy, they won’t go very far.”
One organization that is helping to teach children about healthy eating is the Food Literacy Project. First lady Jane Beshear cut the ribbon at the grand opening of the Food Literacy Project’s newly-completed outdoor kitchen on June 30 at Oxmoor Farm. The kitchen includes an oak shade structure with sinks, countertops, an oven and utensils. With the kitchen, local youth and families will have the opportunity to cook and taste recipes created with the vegetables grown and harvested on the farm.
“I have truly been a supporter of the local food movement,” said Beshear during her speech at the grand opening. “I feel that it is so important not only for the heritage of who we are as Kentuckians but also for the future. And, I think that by working with gardening, with talking about healthy eating, about changing a culture that we live in right now, that what we’re trying to do through the Governor’s Office … is to show that we can change. We can regroup. We can take and teach our next generation of young people how to eat right, how to exercise and how to change the course of their life.”
With the help of the Food Literacy Project, kids are building a brighter and healthier future by learning to grow fruits and vegetables. They’re also growing themselves as individuals, by building friendships with fellow classmates and the staff on the farm.
Last year, the Food Literacy Project invited more than 2,800 children to become involved in a sustainable food system, in which children could plant, weed, harvest, explore and cook food during their Field-to-Fork experience. The children also grew a variety of vegetables for local farmers markets, restaurants and subscribers to a Community Supported Agriculture program.
The Food Literacy Project is in its fifth year as an organization and targets low-income youth with an increased risk of diet-related illness due to inadequate nutrition and inactivity. The organization also serves public and private school classes and faculty, community groups, youth and after-school programs, summer camps, scout troops and special needs groups.
Bellewood Home for Children, a nonprofit agency that serves at-risk and abused children, opened a garden last fall to teach its clients about nutrition and farming.
At the vegetable garden, young people not only harvest fresh produce, but they also grow into responsible, independent adults.
“What the program teaches is a stronger work ethic,” said Robert Bertrand, Bellewood’s communications manager.
“The kids can see their work growing from start to finish. A lot of these kids come from backgrounds where they’re not encouraged to be self-sufficient or hard workers. This is a time for them to grow as teens into young adults. It’s also very therapeutic. They can go in the garden and clear their mind and relax.”
The garden is led by community volunteers, including Don Walker, who brought the idea of the garden to Bellewood. Each week, the volunteers assist participants in preparing the ground, sowing seeds, nurturing plants and harvesting the crops. The youth also grow Christmas poinsettias, Easter lilies, geraniums and other annuals inside Bellewood’s “Grow to Go” greenhouse. Beginning in July, Bellewood will sell homegrown tomatoes at its campus at 11103 Park Road each Saturday from 9 a.m. to noon.
“I think the most interesting thing is that there’s been a lot of unexpected growth on our end too,” Bertrand said. “It’s not seeing the vegetables grow, but just seeing the kids and how much they’ve developed. It’s exciting to watch them grow along with the garden.”
Contact writer Ashley Anderson at email@example.com.
photos by Carling Sothoron | courtesy
Category: Cover Stories
About the Author (Author Profile)
Ashley spends half her time writing stories at The Voice-Tribune office and half her time out on the town conducting interviews, while occasionally dressing in wild outfits to fully immerse herself in the experience (aka Princess Leia at Comic Con). Ashley is a huge UofL fan and loves the Yankees and the Boston Celtics (she is fully aware of the irony). She hopes to one day outshine Erin Andrews on ESPN and enjoys running, Bardstown Road/Fourth Street, Breaking Bad and reality TV (she’s not ashamed to admit that).