Friday, December 4, 2009

What a Difference a Year Makes

Paradise greetings,

One year ago, I had no idea that I was going to start a non-profit organization to build gardens for kids served by Boys and Girls Clubs of Indian River County. One year ago, I had an 8-5 job and was working in disease management for a physicians' practice, tracking data, teaching patients, and giving talks on diabetes and obesity.

Earlier this year I made the decision to start Growing Healthy Kids because of the overweight kids I see at every school and every community event. I see the awful food choices kids are given in school. Teachers and school social workers have started asking me for help with kids who are depressed and withdrawn because they are ashamed of their excess weight. I talk with frustrated parents who say they can't afford to eat healthy and I say to them, yes you can, I will teach you.

Growing Healthy Kids is about "fun with a purpose". We are starting to plant gardens around the county, including our first kayak garden with our partner, Kayaks Etc. Every week we are teaching lessons at the garden. Every week kids are actively learning how to make a healthy snack using ingredients that we are growing together in the gardens.

Every week the lessons I am learning make me grateful for my life, for my wonderful mother who made sure we had healthy, fresh foods to eat, and for my health. So many of the kids I am now gardening with here in Indian River County, Florida have grown up on fast foods and highly processed foods. My anecdotal observation is that these kids seem to explode with happiness when they taste a salsa made from freshly picked, chemical-free tomatoes. They're like starving dogs who've had to beg for table scraps for years and just got tossed a fresh wild salmon.

The foods many kids eat are full of refined sugars with no nutritional value but lots of calories, refined grains stripped of all the dietary fiber and vitamins that nature gave us, and saturated and trans fats that are driving the obesity epidemic and creating younger candidates for heart attacks and Big Pharma. Two in 3 American adults are overweight or obese and already one in 3 kids is overweight or obese. This must change.

Our kids' environment must change. We must change the food choices kids have and did I tell you that we're going to have fun doing it? We're going to plant a lot of gardens!

This is why I have created Growing Healthy Kids. Because NO MATTER WHAT, kids need real foods, not highly processed foods. Because NO MATTER WHAT, kids need some physical activity every day away from computers and texting. I have partnered with Kristen and Mike Beck at Kayaks Etc. so we can erase kids' nature deficit while they learn how to paddle a kayak and stretch some muscles they don't use playing handheld games.

Growing Healthy Kids - improving the health - and lives - of children, one garden and one child at a time.

To your perfect health,
Nancy Heinrich
Founder, Growing Healthy Kids