NORWALK, CT – Earlier in August, the Norwalk Health Department and UConn Extension Expanded Food and Nutrition Education Program (EFNEP) hosted a harvest party celebrating the families who completed the annual Growing Gardens, Growing Health Program at Fodor Farm.
Growing Gardens, Growing Health is a multicomponent program including gardening instruction and lessons on nutrition and cooking. Health Department staff and volunteer Master Gardeners held gardening lessons over the summer at Fodor Farm and assigned each family a garden plot. In June, with the help of Master Gardeners, families planted seeds and plants provided by the program. Each week, the Master Gardeners provided instruction and answered gardening-related questions. Families maintained their plots throughout the summer, including watering, weeding, and pruning their plants.
In addition, EFNEP staff worked with the adults to teach nutrition and cooking lessons focused on cost-efficient and easy ways to prepare healthy, kid-friendly meals. Each week, children learned about nutrition and played games for physical activity. Children helped their parents during gardening and tasted the delicious recipes from the cooking lessons.
As part of the program, the Health Department and EFNEP also partnered with Grade A ShopRite to conduct a grocery store tour where families learned cost-effective ways to shop, pick healthier choices, and better understand nutrition labels.
During the end-of-year party, families harvested the fruits and vegetables they grew, shared some healthy treats, and received certificates recognizing their achievement in completing the program.
The US Community Preventive Services Task Force recommends gardening in combination with nutrition education for children. Studies suggest that these practices together increase children’s vegetable consumption. The more hands-on children are with gardening and preparing healthy foods, the more likely they are to eat these foods.
The Growing Gardens, Growing Health program is funded through grants from the CT Department of Public Health, UConn Extension EFNEP Program. The program is made possible through a partnership with the City of Norwalk Department of Recreation and Parks, who manages Fodor Farm, and Grade A ShopRite, who hosted the grocery store tour.