Dallas, Texas - Today the American Heart Association, the world’s leading nonprofit organization focused on heart and brain health for all, in collaboration with Kelly Meyer, founder of OneSun, and Gail Becker, CEO of CAULIPOWER, launched a nationwide grant program to support the Teaching Gardens Network. Grant recipients will establish or revitalize school garden programs and expand garden resources for Network members.
The American Heart Association Teaching Gardens Network provides access to free garden resources and curriculum, helping school gardens become Teaching Gardens®. The Network’s proud champions, Meyer and Becker, are providing $275,000 to the Association’s Teaching Gardens Network to inspire innovation and incubate new strategies for improving access to healthy food.
“Less than 1% of children have ideal diets and under 10% have reasonably healthy diets,” said Meyer, a national volunteer for the American Heart Association who established OneSun to support the health of children through gardens and nutritional education. “The Teaching Gardens Network plays an important role in nutrition education, as it is rooted in the American Heart Association’s science and nutritional guidelines coupled with information from gardening and education experts to provide fun and engaging garden-based learning for students.”
Lifelong habits are created during childhood and the American Heart Association wants to help children learn and adopt healthy behaviors early. School gardens pair a hands-on experience with an interactive nutrition curriculum to help students make healthy food choices. Located at schools or community organizations, American Heart Association Teaching Gardens® are real-life laboratories for students to learn what it means to be healthy and how fruits and vegetables contribute to a balanced diet.
“We all know kids don't eat enough fruits and vegetables,” says Becker, who launched CAULIPOWER to revolutionize comfort foods by making them better for you. “The gardens do a fantastic job by giving neighborhoods access to nutritious foods as well as getting kids excited about eating healthy, the basics of nutrition and environmental stewardship.”
According to the American Heart Association’s 2019 Statistical Update, most children don’t eat enough fruits and vegetables. On any given day, 27% of 2- and 3-year-olds do not eat a vegetable and among those who do, fried potatoes are the most common. The problem isn’t just among toddlers. Data shows kids eat less and less of these important foods up to age 19.
“One third of U.S. children have overweight or obesity which puts them at higher risk of childhood diabetes and high blood pressure as well as higher risk of heart disease and stroke in adulthood,” said Eduardo Sanchez, M.D., MPH, chief medical officer for prevention and chief of the Center for Health Metrics and Evaluation for the American Heart Association. “The Teaching Gardens Network elevates the conversation of health to the community level and brings together the essential decision-makers who can successfully impact the learning opportunities about and accessibility to the nutritious foods kids need to be healthy.”
In 2010, the American Heart Association teamed up with Meyer to create American Heart Association Teaching Gardens at elementary schools across the country with the goal of helping students learn what it means to be healthy.
Schools can apply for grants online at https://www.heart.org/en/professional/educator/teaching-gardens. Grant applications will be accepted from now to Oct. 11 and grant recipients will be announced in December.