According to the United States Department of Agriculture, 6.5 million children live in an area classified as a “food desert”. What exactly is a food desert, and how does this impact America’s children? A food desert is a community that does not have immediate access to healthy, wholesome foods. Residents of these communities do not live close to grocery stores or farmers’ markets, and must rely on convenience stores for groceries. Unfortunately, these stores usually only sale pre-packaged foods that are loaded with preservatives and lacking in nutrition. Many children growing up in food deserts are not being taught healthy food choices and eating habits. This is a sad reality, but fortunately programs such as the Edible Schoolyard Project are working to make a difference in these communities.
Alice Waters founded the Edible Schoolyard Project in 1995. The mission of the Edible Schoolyard Project is to educate children about healthy food choices through a hands-on, interactive learning experience. According to Alice Waters, “The garden becomes your teacher. It’s that garden that teaches the values that we need to live on this planet.” Students and teachers are involved in the process of gardening, harvesting, and preparing healthy foods. This program could benefit children living in a food desert in numerous ways:
Teaches Healthy Food Choices
One of the top benefits of implementing the Edible Schoolyard Project in a food desert is that it educates students about nutritious, wholesome foods. Students are not only taught about nutrition, but they get to be an active participant in the food-making process. Schools that follow the Edible Schoolyard Project have gardens and kitchen-classrooms where students are educated in gardening and food preparation. This provides students with the tools they need to continue healthy food choices for a lifetime. Students are empowered by this process; they are actively making healthy choices and are provided with the skills to do so.
Provides Education Opportunities in Every Subject
The Edible Schoolyard Project goes above and beyond educating children about healthy food choices. Lesson plans involve different academic subjects and follow content standards, Common Core State Standards, and Next Generation Science Standards. There are so many ways to connect nutrition with other subjects such as science, reading, or art. This program encourages active learning, and keeps children interested and involved.
Encourages Community Involvement
Another benefit of the Edible Schoolyard Project is that it promotes community involvement. Everyone at the school is involved in the program: teachers, administrators, and students. Students may share the information they learn at home, and this could lead to more gardening in the community. If the Edible Schoolyard Project’s benefits expand beyond the schoolyard, imagine the difference it could make in a food desert community.
Here at Monbrigo, 50% of our profits support urban food desert communities by funding community gardens and edible education programs. We are inspired by the Edible Schoolyard Project’s mission, and hope to help similar programs educate children about healthy food choices.
Written by Karen Richards, 2016.
Top image from The USDA via Flickr. Second image is in public domain.