Wednesday, April 24, 2013



“I can’t afford to feed my kids healthy foods.” This is something I hear from parents all the time.  My response is always the same, “Give me an hour and I’ll show you how.”  One of our local education projects that teaches parents the HOW part is our collaboration with Vero Beach Elementary School (VBE).  With over 600 kids and one of the highest rates of kids on the free and reduced meal program in Indian River County, Florida, VBE is a special school.  This school year saw the demolition of the old school and dedication of the new green school and the building of new garden projects, including a large hydroponic garden.  This week I stopped by VBE and visited Alex Gomez of Pure Produce, who built the garden.  He was  putting finishing touches on the project but when I visited, cucumbers and sugar snap peas were ready to harvest!  For young children to be able to see how to grow real food and then be able to attend our family education program with their parents and learn how to prepare foods that they love to eat is reward enough for me.   The school also has some square foot gardens built with a grant and volunteers from our local Audubon Society plus the first of several family plots.  If you live in the Vero Beach area, stop by the school at the corner of 12th Street and 20th Avenue for a look at how we can afford to feed kids healthy foods.  For Wellness Wednesdays readers in faraway places, here’s some pictures from the gardens at VBE.

Alex Gomez shows off the first crop of cucumbers at
VBE's new hydroponic greenhouse.

The square foot gardens at VBE are a hit with the kids!  

Raising community awareness about hunger and childhood obesity will be center stage tomorrow with the screening of A Place at the Table at The Majestic Theatre in Vero Beach.  What will follow will be a community discussion lead by a panel of local leaders in the fight against poverty, hunger, and obesity.  As one of the panelists, I look forward to discussing implementing local solutions to hunger, obesity, and education about healthy foods.  David Jackson, from U.S. Representative Bill Posey's office, will be the moderator.  

In this county more than 63% of all public school children are enrolled in the free and reduced meal program.  The economy is still in the tank.  There are kids are coming to school on Monday mornings who have had very little or no food over the weekend.  We have older adults having to choose between medicine and food.  There is an urgent need to quickly move beyond the rhetoric, regulations, and red tape and act to increase access to locally grown foods and education programs that teach and inspire individuals of all ages to eat real foods, not processed foods high in sugar, fat, and salt.  I encourage you to set personal goals for personal fitness and exercise.  

Getting to a healthy weight is easy to do when you get away from the cheap, processed foods and buy what is in season from the local farmers.  For others, it may mean starting a small herb container kitchen garden.  What can you do to increase your own access to locally grown foods?  Join me tomorrow at The Majestic Theatre at 5:00 PM and I promise you will leave with lots of ideas for taking action.

To see a trailer from A Place at the Table, click here:

For a great recipe using quinoa (pronounced keen-wa), my favorite supergrain which is also a complete protein, try this at home:

Glazed Shrimp with Quinoa and Curried Tomatoes

  • 1 cup red quinoa (don't forget to rinse quinoa in a fine sieve for 1 minute under cold water)
  • 2 Tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 cups water
  • 1 teaspoon salt, divided
  • 3 Tablespoons butter, divided
  • 2 pounds large shrimp, peeled
  • 2 Tablespoons red currant jelly
  • 2 Tablespoons chopped, seeded jalapeno peppers
  • 2 pints cherry tomatoes
  • 1 teaspoon curry powder
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt 
  • juice of 1/2 lemon


1. Toast quinoa in olive oil over medium high heat for about 5 minutes.  Add water and 1/2 teaspoon salt.  Bring to a simmer and cook until tender, about 30 minutes.  Remove from heat, stir, and set aside. 
2. Heat 1 Tablespoon butter over medium heat.  Add shrimp and saute 3 minutes.  Add jelly and peppers.  
3. Heat 1 Tablespoon butter over medium heat. Add tomatoes, curry powder, water, and remaining 1/2 teaspoon salt.  Cook 10 minutes, or until tomatoes break down slightly.  Stir in remaining butter and lemon juice.
4. To serve, place a mound of quinoa on plate and top with shrimp and curried tomoatoes.  Serves 8.  

This recipe was created by Daniel Lindley of St. John's Restaurant in Chattanooga, Tennessee and was printed in Relish Magazine (which has a great motto, "Celebrating America's Love of Food").  To find more recipes from Relish, click here.

In gratitude,

Nancy Heinrich
Founder, Growing Healthy Kids, Inc.