By Judy Halterman and Joy Paterson

Veggies for Kids partnered with The Boys and Girls Club of Mason Valley to provide healthy eating educational activities to local youth

Judy teaches kids who enthusiastically join her activities

Judy teaches kids who enthusiastically join her activities

during a week long summer institute. Youngsters from 5 years old to 8th grade participated in the activities. Each day, of the 4 day institute, they were taught a different lesson on “Food from Plants” to help them understand where food comes from and about healthy eating choices. A total of 180 youth participated throughout the week.

The first lesson’s question was, “What parts of plants does food come from?” An interactive game had youth running to different stations that identified which parts of the plants that a particular fruit or vegetable came from. For example, Judy would yell “Pineapple” and the kids would select their answer by running to a station labeled “seed, root, stem, leaf, flower or fruit”. The kids would then learn the correct answer and why that pineapple was a fruit and that fruits are formed from the ovary part of a flower. After learning about plant parts, they went outside on a scavenger hunt looking for various parts of plants. The kids loved moving around and exploring familiar plants in new ways.

Day two focused on what plant parts are in common foods. “Do donuts come from plants?” All the kids originally said “NO”, but they learned  flour and sugar comes from plants. They tasted crackers, jelly, pickles, raisins, ketchup and pickles and learned what plants these foods came from and the course the food would take to make it to their plate in the form they were tasting. Do you know what the 4 most eaten foods in the world are? Youth learned they are: wheat, rice, corn and soybean. Discussions included how these foods are used in our everyday eating.

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Youth show the bunnies hiding in the grass, before eating their art

A boy arranges a peach on his plate to create his fruit and veggie masterpiece

A boy arranges a peach on his plate to create his fruit and veggie masterpiece

Cooking or combine things from plants into tasty dishes was the focus of the third day. They were given items from plants and allowed to create their own style of humus from scratch. They added their own spices, mashed the chickpeas and tasted on crackers to see if they liked what they made. While some were fine, most of them added too much salt or pepper. Fortunately, Judy had some tasty humus for the kids to eat.

Example garden map where youth could plan what they wanted to grow in their ideal garden

Example garden map where youth could plan what they wanted to grow in their ideal garden

The final day children designed their perfect garden. They studied what vegetables could be grown together and what vegetables should be grown apart. Youth created a garden map with different aspects of a garden with different sun exposure, soil fertility and other real-life challenges that gardeners face. The kids had a great time learning where plants would grow best. Art and science met in an hands-on activity creating food art. Food art activities engage the creativity of kids using fruits and vegetables to make a a bunny hiding in the grass. Is anything better than art you can eat?

Youth plants seeds into the window box they created

Youth plants seeds into the window box they created

Over the course of the summer institute, vegetable and herb window gardens were created by the kids using milk carton boxes, soil and  four different types of seeds. Youth learned about what plants need to be able to grow and designed the outside to with information about each plant. These were made out of 4 milk cartons taped together with white duct tape. They then designed the boxes using magic markers and crayons. The kids then planted spinach, mache (lettuce), and several types of herbs. They learned how to take care of their boxes once they were taken home. Visits to the school garden at Yerington Elementary School served as a real garden where participants picked green beans, tasted fresh-off-the-vine cherry tomatoes, and pulled weeds. Learning how the garden grows and where food we eat everyday comes from. The hoop house became a regular learning experience, with the club helping throughout the summer to collect produce, tend plants and pull weeds. Vegetables were then eaten fresh by the kids or cooked into delicious food at the club for all to try.

Veggies for Kids will continue to educate youth about fruits and vegetables throughout the school year. Special thanks to the Boys and Girls Club of Mason Valley and Darci Beaton for facilitating all weeks activity and help with the hoop house garden over the summer. For more information about the Veggies for Kids program, contact Judy Halterman.