Garden-based summer nutrition is a healthy partnership

March 9, 2012
kids learning in produce section
4-H youth learn about local produce on a field trip to Red Apple. (Photo by Barbara Brody.)

ONTARIO, Ore. – One 10-year-old in a Malheur County 4-H summer nutrition program is convinced that her taste buds changed over the summer. "I used to not like spinach," she said, "but these smoothies are delicious!"

With no taste-bud makeover required, green smoothies always are a popular surprise in an Oregon State University Extension garden-based nutrition-education program.

"Growing Healthy Kids" was a hit last summer as a partnership with the OSU Malheur County 4-H Youth Development program, the Boys and Girls Club of the Western Treasure Valley, the Southeast Oregon Regional Food Bank and the Four Rivers Community Garden.

The curriculum is based on data that shows kids are most likely to eat vegetables they grow themselves. 

"As we planned the summer program for 2011, we had specific ideas to improve," said Barbara Brody, OSU Family and Community Health/4-H faculty member. "We had found in previous years that the youngsters enjoy helping in the community garden and tasting new, healthy, kid-friendly recipes. ‘Growing Healthy Kids’ fit our needs."

As part of the OSU Extension nutrition curriculum, students aged 5-11 were encouraged to eat a variety of fruits and vegetables every day, and they tried many that they hadn't eaten before. They also discovered how to measure and substitute ingredients in recipes and handle food safely.

Recipes to take home included "Magical Fruit Salad" and the noted "Green Leaf Power Smoothie." During the last session, students made a shopping list, compared prices and brands at a local grocery and cooked a skillet meal based on their own choice of ingredients.

In another ongoing project about eating well, students taped poster sheets on the wall to create their own wall murals of a growing garden.

"Each time we met, they added new photos and drawings and took great pride their work," Brody said. "They were delighted with the results and complimented each other on their coloring skills and placement of pictures."

Growing Healthy Kids will come back to the Boys and Girls Club in Ontario in 2012. Brody foresees next year as a good time to learn how food comes from the garden to the table. "The kids, and their parents as well, will see how what they grow in Malheur County fits in with daily meals.”

One of the new, unexpected recipes will be pizza squash, as squash grows well in Malheur County.

Author: Judy Scott
Source: Barbara Brody