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Planting Seeds of Good Health

2010 October 8

By Christine Zachek

I don’t pretend to have a green thumb, but I accepted the challenge of growing a small tomato plant in my windowsill this summer. It is satisfying to eat something fresh that I grew with my own hands. Consumption of fruits and vegetables are far below what is recommended by the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Dietary Guidelines. On average, children consume only 64% of the recommended level of fruit and 46% of the recommended vegetables.

The challenge that many urban communities face is lack of access to affordable healthy foods. USDA estimates that 23.5 million people, including 6.5 million children, live in low-income areas that are more than a mile from a supermarket. These so-called “food deserts” often have more convenience stores and fast-food restaurants than supermarkets or grocery stores. Fresh fruits and vegetables are priced high, if they are available at all.

The point of all this? Lack of healthy choices leads to poor nutrition, with implications being that nearly one out of every three children is overweight or obese. First Lady Michelle Obama’s Let’s Move! campaign calls on the nation to eliminate the problem of childhood obesity in one generation.

My next challenge: cultivating a plot in a community garden.

Community gardens can provide children with good food to combat obesity and they can transform unused vacant lots into positive and productive space, even an oasis for residents to enjoy nature, meet and work together. Care must be taken to ensure that the soil is free from environmental contaminants, so that the food grown there is safe to eat. EPA offers tips and assistance to help communities with this effort. Read more about starting your own community garden.

Planting the seeds of good health and community through urban gardens is a step in the right direction to providing our children with nutritious foods and promoting a healthy lifestyle.

About the author: Christine Zachek works in the EPA Office of Children’s Health Protection.

Editor’s Note: The opinions expressed in Greenversations are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action, and EPA does not verify the accuracy or science of the contents of the blog.

Editor's Note: The opinions expressed in Greenversations are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action, and EPA does not verify the accuracy or science of the contents of the blog.

6 Responses leave one →
  1. armansyahardanis permalink
    October 8, 2010

    I agree with you about cultivating a plot in communities gardens.
    By the way, in my neighborhood, I saw some of women had obesity after they married. I think that is not foods effect, but psychoneurosis. I know, before married, they are enjoy and so cool, but the families had wrong chosen. But I am happy, their kids so funny and many others obesity, include my son who will graduate university ceremony next week. Congratulations Boy…!!!!

  2. Jesús Torres Navarro permalink
    October 9, 2010

    Felicidades es un excelente artículo y felicidades también a la Primera Dama Michelle Obama por la encomiable labor que ha venido realizando en beneficio de los niños; es un ejemplo para todo el mundo

  3. Michael E. Bailey permalink
    October 10, 2010

    What you say is right on target about poor food choices being mostly what is available in low income areas and this goes along with other information about these areas having more polluted drinking water and also dirtier air to breathe because these are also the same areas where pollution causing industrial, storage, and disposal operations tend to congregate because costs are less in these low income areas for big polluters. The work EPA is doing with helping set up community gardens is a major step in the right direction of improved public health in low income communihties. Best wishes, Michael E. Bailey.

  4. MOS Creative permalink
    October 11, 2010

    Great post! I couldnt agree more how satisfying it is to be able to eat something that you have grown yourself and being that most foods we plant are healthy it is like an added bonus!

  5. Skyler Roeshot permalink
    October 13, 2010

    Eating healthy is not easy. Often times working parents don’t have time to cook a healthy meal for their families. Cooking requires having the ingredients for a recipe, and unless you live near a grocery store, you’re out of luck. Right now I am a full time student with an internship and a weekend job, and I can’t even find the time to cook a healthy meal for myself, let alone someone else. I think community gardens are a great idea. However, it seems unlikely that there will ever be enough community gardens available to combat the issue of children not eating enough fruits and vegetables. In suburban areas, finding space for a community garden in a local park seems feasible. However, in densely populated areas, where green space is limited, I can’t imagine there being enough space for enough community gardens to keep up with local demand. This being said, I still think increasing the number of community gardens wherever possible would be beneficial.
    It would be great if landlords and public housing managers put community gardens on multi-family housing roofs for tenants to rent and plant fruits and vegetables. Roof gardens would be a convenient and cheaper alternative for busy parents, a positive experience for children who would otherwise be cooped up inside after school or during the summer, and a great way to increase the number of green roofs in our cities, which would, in turn, decrease storm water run off by creating more permeable surfaces. Children should also be exposed to gardening in school. I think elementary and middle schools should have fruit and vegetable gardens for kids to manage either in the school’s playground area, or on the school’s roof. The food pyramid is one way to educate kids about eating nutritiously, but seeing the food pyramid doesn’t change kids’ eating habits who don’t eat healthy at home. Having a garden that students manage, will teach children what they can do to eat more healthily when they grow up. These efforts will, hopefully reduce childhood obesity for children of future generations.

  6. Linda S permalink
    November 12, 2010

    I thought for sure the percentages would be lower for the amount of kids that eat the right amount of fruits and vegetables. Having a garden is a great and affordable way of having fresh food. The taste is so much better. The quality is insurpassable. There are enough vacant lots around. That is a great way to bring gardens to communities. Kids love to help in the garden. So its a great way of letting them learn while they do!

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