fresh foods

Outdoor Activities for Better Grades

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By Lina Younes

As I was watching one of the morning shows covering the Olympics Games this week, I saw a feature story about a primary school in England that had incorporated cooking classes into the curriculum. The intention was not to produce future chefs, although many of the students had become quite skilled in the culinary arts. The objective was to get children outdoors, to teach them about gardening, to make them aware of where food comes from, and how eating fresh food makes them healthier. While their culinary talents were an added bonus, the program pointed out to many positive outcomes. The part that caught my attention was when the reporter asked the schoolmaster if there had been an improvement in their overall grades in traditional classes. The school master answered with an emphatic “yes!”

Many of the issues highlighted in the London school were similar to First Lady Michelle Obama’s initiative Let’s Move which focuses on fighting childhood obesity by improving access to healthy food in schools and in the home and by increasing physical activity. I would take the benefits of this program one step further. How about increasing opportunities for children to have healthy outdoor activities? How about exposing children to nature? What would be the impact on children’s health and knowledge?

In fact, there have been several small studies which show a correlation between environmental education and improved student achievement and success in the sciences. The studies indicate how hands-on learning experiences through outdoor or environmental education enhance problem-solving skills, improved performance in the sciences while fostering overall environmental literacy and stewardship. Sounds like a win-win situation to me.

So, while we still might have time off with the kids during the remaining summer vacation, why not try engaging our kids in some outdoor activities away from the TV? What do you think?

About the author: Lina Younes is the Multilingual Outreach and Communications Liaison for EPA. Among her duties, she’s responsible for outreach to Hispanic organizations and media. She spearheaded the team that recently launched EPA’s new Spanish website, www.epa.gov/espanol . She manages EPA’s social media efforts in Spanish. She’s currently the editor of EPA’s new Spanish blog, Conversando acerca de nuestro medio ambiente. Prior to joining the agency, she was the Washington bureau chief for two Puerto Rican newspapers and an international radio broadcaster. She has held other positions in and out of the Federal Government.


Editor's Note: The opinions expressed here 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.

Please share this post. However, please don't change the title or the content. If you do make changes, don't attribute the edited title or content to EPA or the author.

How Can You Help Environmental Justice Communities Create an Oasis in a Food Desert?

By Ann Carroll

It’s a simple question. How far do you have to go to get healthy food?

I’m lucky. I can walk eight blocks to get to a full service grocery store. If I bike in the other direction, I have even more options: a Latino food market and a grocery store full of organic vegetables, fruits, and other healthy options. In a pinch, Swiss chard from my garden becomes a meal of fresh greens.

While many people associate environmental justice with reducing pollution problems, access to healthy food is just as essential for public health as well. In many urban and rural areas, families may have a long journey to get healthy, fresh foods. The ‘Food Desert’ as it is now called, is an area where residents don’t have easy access to fresh food. While the definitions and distances vary in a city or rural area, the idea is the same: Getting healthy food is hard work in a food desert.

Many brownfields communities also are ‘food deserts’ where options for getting healthy foods are difficult. Brownfields are abandoned properties or vacant lots where the presence or potential presence of environmental contamination prevents reuse.#

In the last few years, the EPA, our state and tribal partners and community leaders have highlighted how brownfield communities can change their ‘food environment’ as part of site. They are putting brownfields to new healthy uses that improve food access in underserved areas, contributing to public health and economic development.

You can learn how former brownfields are becoming supermarkets, farmer’s markets, urban farms, community gardens, and even food banks. Take a look at the resources we’ve developed from projects or those of our Superfund colleagues.

Do you live in a food desert? These maps from the U.S Department of Agriculture (USDA) can help connect you to your food environment.

You can help your community see that vacant building or abandoned gas station in a new way. It may be a brownfield now, but it can improve food access in your community. You can work with local officials to pick safe garden sites and learn what vacant lots to avoid due to likely environmental contamination. Talk to your city or town about whether a brownfield grant can fund assessing or cleaning lots or structures to become the supermarket, greenhouse, garden, urban farm, farmers market or a healthier grocery store you need.

About the author: Ann Carroll has a science and public health background and has worked on environmental health issues in the US and internationally for close to 30 years and with the EPA’s Office of Brownfields and Land Revitalization for the last ten years. She helps communities assess and clean brownfields and plan for their safe reuse. Ann is working on a doctorate in environmental health and is a Fellow at Johns Hopkins University, Bloomberg School of Public Health, Center for a Livable Future.

Editor's Note: The opinions expressed here 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.

Please share this post. However, please don't change the title or the content. If you do make changes, don't attribute the edited title or content to EPA or the author.

How Can You Help Environmental Justice Communities Create an Oasis in a Food Desert?

By Ann Carroll

It’s a simple question. How far do you have to go to get healthy food?

I’m lucky. I can walk eight blocks to get to a full service grocery store. If I bike in the other direction, I have even more options: a Latino food market and a grocery store full of organic vegetables, fruits, and other healthy options. In a pinch, Swiss chard from my garden becomes a meal of fresh greens.

While many people associate environmental justice with reducing pollution problems, access to healthy food is just as essential for public health as well. In many urban and rural areas, families may have a long journey to get healthy, fresh foods. The ‘Food Desert’ as it is now called, is an area where residents don’t have easy access to fresh food. While the definitions and distances vary in a city or rural area, the idea is the same: Getting healthy food is hard work in a food desert.

Many brownfields communities also are ‘food deserts’ where options for getting healthy foods are difficult. Brownfields are abandoned properties or vacant lots where the presence or potential presence of environmental contamination prevents reuse.#

In the last few years, the EPA, our state and tribal partners and community leaders have highlighted how brownfield communities can change their ‘food environment’ as part of site. They are putting brownfields to new healthy uses that improve food access in underserved areas, contributing to public health and economic development.

You can learn how former brownfields are becoming supermarkets, farmer’s markets, urban farms, community gardens, and even food banks. Take a look at the resources we’ve developed from projects or those of our Superfund colleagues.

Do you live in a food desert? These maps from the U.S Department of Agriculture (USDA) can help connect you to your food environment.

You can help your community see that vacant building or abandoned gas station in a new way. It may be a brownfield now, but it can improve food access in your community. You can work with local officials to pick safe garden sites and learn what vacant lots to avoid due to likely environmental contamination. Talk to your city or town about whether a brownfield grant can fund assessing or cleaning lots or structures to become the supermarket, greenhouse, garden, urban farm, farmers market or a healthier grocery store you need.

About the author: Ann Carroll has a science and public health background and has worked on environmental health issues in the US and internationally for close to 30 years and with the EPA’s Office of Brownfields and Land Revitalization for the last ten years. She helps communities assess and clean brownfields and plan for their safe reuse. Ann is working on a doctorate in environmental health and is a Fellow at Johns Hopkins University, Bloomberg School of Public Health, Center for a Livable Future.

Editor's Note: The opinions expressed here 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.

Please share this post. However, please don't change the title or the content. If you do make changes, don't attribute the edited title or content to EPA or the author.