Planting Seeds for Healthy Living
Obesity has emerged as one of the most pressing public health concerns in America. The deleterious effects of obesity are far reaching and may threaten the very survival of our citizens.
Sadly, an ever increasing volume of data confirms that South Carolina fairs poorly in the weight battle. Healthcare workers and educators realize that overweight children are likely to become overweight adults. Likewise, they seek avenues to address worrisome weight trends evolving in communities. School gardens provide teachers with a means to address students’ nutrition while teaching scientific principles.
However, due to budgetary shortfalls, the state is unable to support such extracurricular activities. Another barrier in several Greenville County schools is the lack of sufficient space and suitable soil for planting. Other issues include the lack of volunteers with gardening experience who can help children establish such an effort and also limited classroom time.
We are most grateful to Eat Smart Move More South Carolina for funding the implementation of school gardens in two Greenville County Elementary schools.
Dr. Shelia Roundtree identified suitable sites and engaged the administrators; both principles embraced this as an opportunity to advance the mission of their respective schools. Further, Dr. Roundtree recruited a horticulturist from Clemson University and a statistician from the University of South Carolina to help monitor the progress of the project. A graduate student was invaluable in terms of measuring students’ knowledge and attitudes concerning vegetables before and after planting.
Local businesses, including Bilo and Home Depot, donated items and many from each school volunteered whole heartedly to construct the garden beds. Much of the work took place after school and on weekends. Communities of parents, extended family members and friends worked tirelessly and enthusiastically to make this novel effort a success.
As a result of this effort, approximately sixty children in each school experienced the joy and excitement of building a garden from the ground up. Further, they learned the nutritious value of vegetables via a structured curriculum. Importantly, they prepared and consumed the vegetables they grew, and they enjoyed doing so tremendously!
Final data showed that children who plant gardens are more likely to view vegetables favorably and therefore made healthier food choices. This work may have far reaching policy implications; school gardens could emerge as a powerful weapon in the armamentarium to combat obesity. There is much work to be done, and fabulous organizations such as Eat Smart Move More South Caroline are helping us reach the goal of a Healthy South Carolina!!!
Shelia Roundtree, MD MPH
864 525 8482