Thursday, November 29, 2012

Food Farmer Earth: Growing Healthy Kids

Childhood obesity, diabetes and other health problems can seem intractable when presented as numbers in a news story. But a visit to a local child care center that is educating kids and families about healthy diets and local foods shows a different perspective. My interview for Food Farmer Earth explains how big changes can come from small gestures…like a phone call.

Head Start began as an eight-week demonstration project in 1965 to help break the cycle of poverty, providing preschool children of low-income families with a comprehensive program to meet their emotional, social, health, nutritional and psychological needs. Since then it has become the nation’s largest federally funded early child care and education program for children zero to five years old.

Good nutrition has always been a focus of the program, but many of the children in Head Start programs don’t have access to fresh, local foods at home. Discussing this fact a couple of years ago, Dr. Betty Izumi of Portland State University and Dawn Barberis of Mt. Hood Community College’s Head Start program came up with the idea for the Harvest for Healthy Kids project.

Based on farm-to-school food programs that were being piloted around the country, it would not only bring healthier foods into the Head Start food service program, it would educate children about fresh fruits and vegetables by engaging the children in activities centered around a featured food.

One recent week the featured vegetable was carrots.

“The children are cooking with carrots and doing carrot art activities,” said Dr. Izumi. “They’re reading books about carrots and gardening and doing planting activities. The program is unique in that the featured food is really being integrated into the rhythm of the Head Start day.”

Read the rest of the article.

Learn more about the farmer who grows vegetables for Harvest for Healthy Kids in Growing Carrots: Red, Yellow, Purple and Orange. This week's recipe is for easy Rutabaga Carrot Ginger Soup. Get regular updates on this series about our local food scene by subscribing.

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