The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports that 17 percent of American children aged 2 to 19 are obese. And obese children are more likely to become obese adults. On the premise that children who grow fruits and vegetables are more likely to eat them, the American Heart Association Teaching Garden program is helping children develop healthy habits early in life. Launched in 2011, and supported by health activist Kelly Meyer, the program shows school students how to plant seeds, grow plants and harvest food. The goal is to help kids understand the value of good eating and the importance of nutrition.
“Children who grow fruits and vegetables are more likely to eat them,” Meyer said. “The Teaching Garden program provides hands-on experiences and an interactive curriculum where children are given the tools to build a foundation of healthy habits.”
In 2013, Aetna sponsored Teaching Gardens in five elementary schools across the country. In addition to providing financial support, Aetna nurses volunteered to help plant and build the gardens. Aetna went back to the five elementary schools in 2014 and is launching five new gardens in different locations. “If we can give children an early start on learning about healthy eating and nutrition, they may carry that with them into the future,” said Susan Kosman, R.N., chief nursing officer for Aetna.
Learn more about this here.
Non-profits play a critical role in community health
In Missouri City, Texas, a program called Soul Food Makeover is working to educate African Americans about the link between unhealthy eating and disease, and ways to prepare healthier versions of traditional meals.
In Los Angeles, at-risk teenagers are working with Students Run America, a marathon and mentoring program that helps teens prepare for the L.A. Marathon while learning the importance of a healthy diet.
And in Tampa, Florida, a group called Seniors In Service Of Tampa Bay Inc. is providing healthy snacking and physical activities for elementary school-aged children, while encouraging healthy eating and active living among the senior volunteers who run the program.
Spread across the United States, these three programs and more than 100 others have one thing in common. They are community-focused nonprofits using grants from the Aetna Foundation to foster healthier lifestyles through better nutrition and greater physical activity. The grants – which total nearly $3.5 million — were awarded in 2013. Learn more about this effort here.