CalFresh Gardening Program at Thomas Edison Elementary Aims to Reduce Obesity

Martha Rivera (left), CalFresh program director, congratulates Edison Principal Carmen Lebrecque for her leadership in making the program successful.  Team members who guided the project are (from left) Jennie Yepez and Stephanie Rodriguez, health educators; and Vanessa Cortez, project coordinator.

When children learn at an early age that growing their own food is fun — and the fruits and veggies taste good, too — they’re well on the way to eating healthy.

CalFresh Healthy Living, a health education partnership linking the Adventist Health Glendale Foundation and L.A. County Department of Public Health, is working to reduce the rate of obesity, high blood pressure  and Type 2 diabetes among local school children. The focus is on preschool- and elementary-age kids and their families, featuring interactive activities such as food demonstrations, exercise (Zumba) and gardening.

For the past two years, students at Thomas Edison Elementary in Glendale have been growing carrots, tomatoes, kale, broccoli, chard,  and other healthy greens, along with fruit and varieties of plants.

“Students reaped the rewards of their harvest by making a kale-broccoli-cranberry salad,” explains first grade teacher Kim Labinger. “They made soup in a solar oven from the carrots, tomatoes and chard they grew and harvested themselves. Most importantly, gardening teaches students patience and how  to share and work as a community for a common good.”

Principal Carmen Lebrecque adds, “For our students, this is a great opportunity not only to grow their own food, but to learn how the process works, how this food affects their body, and how it helps them grow and be healthy. It’s not just about the garden; exercise is an important component.”

The long-term goal of the program is sustainability of healthy consumption and exercise behaviors among the students.  CalFresh Healthy Living hopes that the knowledge and experiences gained from the program will promote long-term positive health effects.