Just in time for a soaking spring rain, the student members of the Crystal City Elementary School Garden Club planted tomato and pepper plants along with other vegetables in the school’s courtyard on April 24.
The Teaching Garden is a cooperative effort between Mercy Hospital Jefferson and the American Heart Association. Encouraging children to learn about a heart-healthy diet, including fresh vegetables, is one of the goals of the program.
"We are so happy to be working with the Teaching Gardens program provided by Mercy and the American Heart Association,” said Melanie Roper, principal at CCES. “This program allows us to educate our students on the benefits of growing their own vegetables and creating healthy eating habits.”
The educational opportunity goes beyond good eating, including physical activity while outdoors in the fresh air, and much more.
“The students will learn cooperation skills and be able to help one another across grade levels while planting and taking care of the plants,” Roper said. “Our plan is to have our garden club members present to their class and give updates on the progress in the garden. The students are very excited to take on this leadership role and watch our garden grow."
Mercy Jefferson president Eric Ammons and representatives from the American Heart Association in St. Louis, Jennifer Jaeger and Rachelle Bartnick, helped the children plant the vegetables.
“That was a lot of fun,” Ammons said. “The children were very enthusiastic about their garden, although several admitted to me that they were not big fans of vegetables. Hopefully the experience will win them over. Mercy is proud to be involved in our community, especially when we can do it in partnership with organizations like our local schools and the American Heart Association.”
Statistics from the Heart Association identify the need for progress to help children live healthier lifestyles. Nearly one-third of U.S. children and teens are overweight or obese, and medical experts warn that children today may be on track to have a shorter life span than their parents.
"Our hope is that by teaching kids where vegetables come from and the benefits of healthy eating we can inspire change and reverse the epidemic of childhood obesity in this country," said Jennifer Jaeger, Executive Director, American Heart Association St. Louis. "Besides changing their own eating habits, children may also motivate other family members to modify their diets and improve cardiovascular health. We are honored to join with Mercy Jefferson to bring this garden to life in Jefferson County.”
American Heart Association volunteer and noted health activist Kelly Meyer founded the Teaching Garden concept in 2010. The hands-on experiences provide children get on the right path early and ultimately understand the value of good eating habits.