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Role of Gardens in Combating Childhood Obesity

  • Subject: [cg] Role of Gardens in Combating Childhood Obesity
  • From: David Haskell davidhaskell89@yahoo.com
  • Date: Tue, 4 Oct 2005 11:39:16 -0700 (PDT)

Topic: "Role of Gardens in Combatting Childhood

From: David Haskell, Master Gardener for the Garden of
Eatin' Project, North Bay Children's Center, Novato,

Greetings to one and all. Allow me to introduce our
Garden of Eatin'Project. Our garden-based nutrition,
childhood obesity prevention project targets early
childhood age groups 6 months to 5 years. Our garden
has now produced through four seasons and we managed
to achieve wonderful successes in starting the
transformation of our children's food choices. When
one of our teachers asked our children recently, "What
are your favorite foods?" -- they overwhelmingly
started listing the many wonderful fruits and
vegetables they eat from their Garden of Eatin'. It's
like candy, cookies, ice cream and cake did not even

What we are trying to do is train young taste buds to
choose fresh naturally sweet produce instead of the
fats, sugars and salts on offer in most processed
foods. As an example, one of our mothers announced
recently, "My son only wants to eat broccoli now!" 

Our conclusion is that pre-school based gardens are
one of the most effective tools we have to  help
resolve the many threats inherent in childhood
obesity. From our investigation -- (please tell me
there are more of you out there!) we are the only
pre-school organization that is combining garden /
classroom curriculum / parent outreach and school food
services in a comprehensive package to address the
problem of childhood obesity. We are trying our best
to get it right. But we have limited funding. And
let's face it, this "obesity challenge" is not just
about kids. The challenge is like one of those Russian
dolls one keeps opening and finding another doll - in
this case a problem - inside. The challenge is about
adult role models, teachers, parents, USDA food
standards, federal food subsidies, mass marketing ...
the list goes on and on. However, we feel we are on
the right track with our Garden of Eatin' Project.
Making a difference in a child's life - one child at a
time. It is slow, but so rewarding.

In my native state of California, we collectively
spend $27 Billion annually treating diabetes - the
vast majority being the totally avoidable type-2
variety.  The costly consequences of allowing the
plague of childhood obesity to spread like a cancer is
almost too horrible to contemplate. Every time there
is a new study released -- IT IS GETTING WORSE!  We
are loosing the war on obesity and our children are
the unwitting victims.

Community Gardens for too long has been a marginal
community activity - operated for and by local
enthusiasts. It is our contention that one of the best
ways to stem the tide of childhood obesity is by
putting every overweight child and their family in a
garden and telling them to eat fresh! Putting
"Community Gardens" in every pre-school will cost
money. Money that should come from a new CHILD'S
HEALTH SURCHARGE  placed on processed foods predicated
on the amount of saturated/trans-fats and sugars
present in processed and fast foods.  Recent research
has highlighted the up-front cost of eating a Big Mac
is more when comparison to the down-stream health
costs caused by ingestion of its fatty content! 

To paraphrase an old adage, "If it's not working, do
something different." Well, whatever it is that we are
doing now to combat childhood obesity, it is not
working. I am exasperated when I see county, state and
federal "health" officials continue to do the same old
thing... preach to the choir while forgetting the
great "unwashed".  It is time to do something totally

What Victory Gardens were to WWII, Children's Gardens
need to be to the battle against childhood obesity. 

Are you with me? What do you think we should do? How
should we start? I look forward to our discussion. 

Thank you
David Haskell
Master Gardener, Garden of Eatin' Project
North Bay Children's Center
932 C St. Novato, California 94949
415-883-6222 / 925 899-2014 (cellphone)

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