Grow Yourself Healthy works with students at Libby Booth Elementary School and Mariposa Academy in Washoe County to increase their willingness to taste new fruits and vegetables, overall consumption of vegetables, and physical activity. The program also aims to decrease their screen time and consumption of sugary drinks.
Instruction begins in the classroom, early in the school year, with students in fourth and fifth grade learning about fruits, vegetables and other edible plants, as well as healthy behaviors. Then, the students head to the school garden. In spring, these students use what they learn in the classroom to choose collections of edible plants to grow. Some examples include soup gardens, salsa gardens, edible flowers and three-sisters gardens (a combination of corn, gourds and beans that grow well together).
Students maintain the garden and learn about nutrition and healthy behaviors through the end of the school year, and then receive help from parents, teachers and community members to maintain the garden throughout the summer.
Students returning to school in the fall harvest the produce. Some students and their parents work together to use the produce to create salsa for salsa competitions at each school. For the remaining produce, each school holds a farmer’s market, with the proceeds going back into maintaining the gardens.
Grow Yourself Healthy also occasionally teaches lessons to students kindergarten to third grade to introduce them to the program. In addition, the program holds activities and events for students, their parents and the community. Once such event, “Literacy in the Garden,” was held this summer in partnership with Extension’s Family Storyteller Program. English- and Spanish-speaking children in kindergarten to third grade and their parents spent time together in the school gardens reading children’s books that focused on growing food.