Abstract 229: An Urban Garden Initiative: A Component of Project Healthy Schools
INTRO: Childhood obesity has been a growing problem in the US, with its prevalence linked to cardiovascular disease.School gardens can provide a hands-on method of teaching healthy dietary habits for students. Project Healthy Schools (PHS) is a school-based wellness program, a collaboration between the University of Michigan Health System and community groups that focuses mainly on middle school students. PHS currently has educational programming in 42 schools across lower and mid-Michigan. In 2010, PHS began implementing a garden initiative in select Detroit schools.
METHODOLOGY: The goal of the garden initiative is to familiarize students with fruits and vegetables and increase their interest in eating fresh produce and other healthy foods. Students are invited to participate in the gardening, which increases time spent outdoors, away from televisions, computers and video games. Initial funding for this project came from multiple donors interested in promoting healthy lifestyles in school-age children: The University Cultural Center Association, Detroit’s Garden Resource Program, Lowe’s Education Toolbox Grant, Whole Kids Foundation and the American Heart Association.
RESULTS: Six Detroit schools participated in the garden initiative. The gardens are located either directly at or within walking distance of the school. At each school, the garden initiative consists of an afterschool club, led by a PHS Wellness Coordinator and/or a teacher. Students from regular classes also visit the garden as a way to engage additional students with the project. Each year, the gardening starts in April and the harvest season ends in October. During summer vacation, students have the opportunity to remain involved. In the fall, the produce they harvest has been used in lessons where students consume the produce raw, learn to cook with produce, or even sell the garden produce.
While not all changes reached a level of significance, there were some notable trends, including an increase in vegetable consumption in four schools in 2012. The gardens have also encouraged parental involvement as some parents accompanied their children to the school garden.
CONCLUSIONS: Garden initiatives have given a number of Detroit students the opportunity to learn about fresh produce, encouraged healthy eating, and promoted parental involvement. Garden initiatives for this program will continue with the goal of incorporation into the schools’ curricula. As the project expands, future studies will further evaluate the effects of students’ participation in the gardens on students’ eating habits and physiological markers.
Author Disclosures: W.R. Wei: None. A. Heeres: None. S. Aaronson: None. R. Rogers: None. A. Lee: None. A. Pew: None. A. Foti: None. B. Vuong: None. N. Corriveau: None. Q. Jiang: None. E. Kline-Rogers: None. C. Goldberg: None. J. DuRussel-Weston: None. E.A. Jackson: B. Research Grant; Significant; NIH. D. Speakers; Modest; American Physicians Institute for Advance Professional Studies, National Association for Continuing Education. G. Consultant/Advisory Board; Modest; Pfizer, American College of Cardiology, Up-To-Date, Annenberg Center for Health Sciences at Eisenhower, McKesson, Inc. K.A. Eagle: B. Research Grant; Modest; Hewlett Foundation. B. Research Grant; Significant; GORE. G. Consultant/Advisory Board; Modest; NHLBI, NIH.
- © 2014 by American Heart Association, Inc.