“What do you do to get the kids to like stuff like kale? Or radishes?” I asked. Ms. Denise immediately begins shaking her head in protest, with a huge grin on her face. “If they take the seed and plant it. If they grow it. If they see it every day while they’re out on the playground. If they walk by and smell it. They will love eating it,” she said.
We were standing in an edible schoolyard on a clear, sunny day at SJ Green Charter School in New Orleans. Around us, a gaggle of AARP volunteers from all over the country are seeding sunflowers, sifting pebbles out of soil, trimming and digging. Beyond us, in the edible school yard, a kindergarten class has their arms prepped as bee wings and are flying between rows of spicy peppers, deep green kale, red strawberries, lettuces, carrots and more. Their task for today’s class? To smell yummy vegetables and talk about what they smell like. Not bad for school work!
Ms. Denise (pictured above) and a steady stream of volunteers — today ranging from AARP folks to parents, City Year participants and community members — plant and harvest more than 50 different kinds of fruits and vegetables each year. Their goal is not only to teach kids how to grow food, but how to cook it, too. All of the 500 students at the school take a gardening and cooking class each year with a curriculum in each course that compliments science or nutrition lessons the kids are getting in their other classes.
School gardens have risen in popularity over the last four years, perhaps because first lady Michelle Obama has made ending childhood obesity her cause. At the same time our national relationship with food has evolved and there’s a movement to bring us closer to the ingredients that end up on our plate. Edible schoolyards like the one I worked in today, are one of many initiatives that aim to do just that. The idea being that learning about food, developing a relationship with it and ultimately realizing how food makes us feel will bring us a step closer to ending an obesity epidemic that rages on.
Check out Ms. Denise’s tips for locating and helping your local edible schoolyard over at the AARP Blog, where this post originally appeared!