Thursday, December 24, 2009

Merry Christmas!

Paradise greetings,

Yesterday I stopped by one of the Boys and Girls Clubhouses with a new tomato plant for the garden. Just a small group of kids were there for the day. One girl, who has missed many of the Fridays (our usual afternoon for Growing Healthy Kids), was there for the day so she was glad to help me get the new plant tucked into its new home.

While she and I worked side by side, she told me about the tomato plant she took home several months ago when Growing Healthy Kids made container gardens in recycled one gallon jugs. She told me about the tomatoes she and her mom have been eating from it!

Then she shared about the farm her grandmother used to have and her voice sparkled with excitement!

She and I talked about things she can make with her own tomatoes. She is an amazing child, so full of life and possibilities! I am honored to know her and look forward to being able to give her more Growing Healthy Kids gifts in January!
As we gather tonight and tomorrow to celebrate Christmas together, enjoy the gift of life that has been given to each of us. I am so thankful for my family and friends. I am grateful for the joy that Growing Healthy Kids is bringing to children served by the Boys and Girls Clubs of Indian River County and by Youth Guidance Mentoring & Activities Program and am excited about the possibilities that are coming! What are YOU thankful for?
Growing Healthy Kids is here to improve the health - and lives - of children, one garden and one child at a time.

Merry Christmas to all!

Nancy Heinrich
Founder, Growing Healthy Kids

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Missing: One Cinnamon Basil Plant

Paradise greetings,

Here's the update on the first kayak garden in Indian River County. I stopped by Kayaks Etc. the other day to see Kristen Beck and check out the herb garden that the kids from the Boys and Girls Clubs of Indian River County planted. The first thing Kristen said to me was, "Someone stole the cinnamon basil -- the WHOLE PLANT!" Sure enough, someone dug it out of the kayak garden.
So, I need your help: BOLO (that's police talk for Be On the Look Out) for one beautiful, fragrant cinnamon basil plant.

The kayak garden is looking good! Kristen has already harvested lettuce, basil and cilantro. The beans will be coming next.

What I love about the kayak garden is that every northbound car on US 1 driving through Vero Beach sees it and it may plant a seed with those who see it about gardening for fun, recycling things you don't normally recycle (like old kayaks) and creating garden art wherever we are.

Now, off to find Kristen a new cinnamon basil plant!

Growing Healthy Kids - improving the health - and lives - of kids, one garden and one child at a time.
To your perfect health,
Nancy Heinrich
Founder, Growing Healthy Kids

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Growing Healthy Kids makes Fresh Garden Salsa

Paradise greetings,

What a week! We had lots of liquid sunshine to water the gardens. The gardens we planted on October 13 are full of tomatoes and fresh basil.
At the Sebastian Boys and Girls Club there was a Christmas party for the kids. Growing Healthy Kids made Fresh Garden Salsa to go with corn chips. Let me know if you want the recipe!
The kids who have been taking care of the gardens and going kayaking signed their names on the Growing Healthy Kids mini-herb garden container that we presented to the club director at the party. The minigarden was filled with parsley, basil, and rosemary. He told us that every Sunday he makes a dish with rosemary, so we know his new minigarden will be well taken care of and put to good - and tasty - use! Several of the kids who took home their new minigardens last week told me that the seeds are sprouting already! I love living in the tropics and growing fun stuff to eat!

At the south county clubhouse this week, we finished the minigardens (after painting clay pots last week) and planted them with basil, parsley, and cilantro seeds. The kids took them home with instructions for taking care of their new gardens. We had some healthy snacks - almond butter on whole grain crackers and yellow delicious apple slices. One girl bypassed the crackers and created her own healthy treat by putting the almond butter on the apple slices. Yum!

My observation from bringing healthy snacks to each week's Growing Healthy Kids program to the Boys and Girls Clubs is that kids LOVE to eat healthy - when given the choice. Problem is, they don't always get to choose. That's one thing that Growing Healthy Kids is doing - giving kids healthier choices that are economical and easy.

What's YOUR favorite snack that includes a fruit or vegetable?? Send me your snack idea and we'll "kick the tires" at the next Growing Healthy Kids class.

Today's picture: Fresh Garden Salsa. Pretty good choice of colors for the season, don't you agree?

Thank you to the Vero Beach Kiwanis Club and to the Florida Kiwanis Foundation for your support of Growing Healthy Kids. Together, we are making a difference - and having fun!

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

To your perfect health,

Nancy Heinrich
Founder, Growing Healthy Kids

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Healthy Pizza

Paradise greetings,

This morning's Vero Beach Press Journal featured Russ Lemmon's column on page one with this heading: "Should schools really be pushing pizza?" Russ talked about the banner at an elementary school from a national pizza chain. These banners - and relationships - are at public schools all around Indian River County. According to Russ, Domino's Pizza is giving the schools a minimum of $100/month.

Like Russ says, Domino's is not "doing anything sinister" because "school principals can choose whatever fundraiser they want to do, as long as it's within the School District's guidelines," said the school district's spokeswoman.

Guess what? Sounds like it's time to update the School District's guidelines and policies so they assist school principals to make healthier choices for the kids they serve.

We need leadership from our leaders in education that say we give preference to partnerships with food companies and products which are low in saturated and trans fats. We need leadership that teaches parents that it is not OK for a child to be obese. Who is teaching parents that if children who are obese as adolescents are more likely to be obese as adults? Who is teaching parents and school staff that obesity is a risk factor for Type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, sleep apnea, bone and joint disorders, some cancers, and more?

What's the healthiest pizza Domino's makes? What the unhealthiest?

I looked up the nutritional information for one slice of a large Domino's meatzzza pizza pie: 370 calories/slice (1/8 of the pie), with 157.5 mg grams of fat and 950 mg of sodium PER SLICE!!! One slice contains enough fat calories for 2-1/2 DAYS and it's the wrong kind of fat (saturated). Now multiply all this times 2 or 3 slices and no wonder kids are drowning in fat and the size of two children.

The nutritional information is out there on the internet - use it and make healthier choices.

Growing Healthy Kids made some kick-ass whole grain healthy pizzas for our kick-off garden event on October 13th that had all the kids - and staff - scrambling for some. Our results are that when when we give kids a choice, they choose to eat healthier.

What's your recipe for healthy kid-friendly pizza? I'd love to hear from you as we build new partnerships for 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

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Growing Healthy Kids Grow Minigarden Gifts

Paradise greetings,

This week Growing Healthy Kids was all about minigardens. We created small herb minigardens for the kids to take home to Mom, Dad, or Grandma as Christmas presents. These gifts will now add fresh flavors to foods they are cooking at home such as spaghetti, pasta, and salad. We talked about how using fresh herbs instead of salt can help us keep our hearts healthy.

The kids then made Christmas cards to accompany their herb minigarden gifts.

We talked about how easy it will be for the kids to recycle containers now (just add holes, dirt, seeds, and water!) and use them for new minigardens at their apartments and houses. A little container of basil, cilantro, and parsley can add joy and beauty for children - and their families.

We ended our lesson with "delicious and healthy" kid-friendly snacks that anyone can make and the kids loved:
Snack Idea 1: 1/2 sliced yellow delicious apple (I used some from the high school band's fall apple sale fundraiser) with a slice of cheddar cheese
Snack Idea 2: 1/2 sliced yellow delicious apple and a Gogurt

As I was packing up at one of the Boys and Girls Clubs programs, I thanked each of the staff members at the clubhouse. One remarked to me, "The kids were having a blast with you!" That's because it is about having fun with a purpose.

Another staff member followed me outside to the gardens. He had a lot of questions and we talked while the sun was setting as I taught him about basil, picking a basil leaf from one of the plants for him to smell. Breath in the possibilities as we learn how to eat healthier!

Now I need your help...Please let me know your suggestions for "delicious and healthy" snacks for kids that contain calcium, are low-fat, and are high in fiber. We'd love to see if they get the "Growing Healthy Kids" seal of approval!

To your perfect health,

Nancy Heinrich
Founder, Growing Healthy Kids

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Record highs and the beans are blooming!

Paradise greetings,

With a foot of new snow in Des Moines, we are blessed to live in the tropics, enjoying record highs while the rest of the nation shivers. This morning, while driving my son to school I glimpsed an incredible sunrise. After dropping him off, I altered my morning work plan and drove over the bridge to South Beach. What a perfect way to begin an awesome day! Some stretching and gentle breathing exercises to wake up the bod with the power of the mighty sun bathing Earth in magnificent beauty.

The glory of nature. This is what Growing Healthy Kids is about. Connecting kids with the glory of nature. Learning that the healthiest foods come from the earth. Learning how to grow them. How to harvest them. How to prepare them. How to enjoy them. Respecting nature. Respecting ourselves. Respecting each other. We can overcome the nature deficit kids have by acting deliberately and with purpose.

Yesterday I visited the garden at The Willow School. The beans have the most beautiful, dainty purple blossoms on them and are ready to get staked. The lettuce is big enough that I asked the kindergarders when we are going to have our first salad party. The bean and lettuce seeds were provided by Florida Department of Health's Cancer Prevention section. Eating healthier foods such as fruits and vegetables is important for preventing cancer.

This morning on the news, scientists were celebrating the decreased cancer rates one minute, then talking about their expectation that cancer will be increasing because of the American obesity epidemic. This is why we are planting gardens.

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

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

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Composting for Health (Ours and Our Planet's)

Paradise greetings,

Last Friday, a Master Gardener came to talk with the Growing Healthy Kids group at one of the Boys and Girls Clubs where we have a garden. It was a rainy afternoon, so our plan to have the lesson outside at the garden was rearranged by Mother Nature.
Meet Adina Lehrman: "The Compost Gardener", purveyor of poo, compost concoctor, and butterfly benefactor (I'm not kidding, that what it says on her card!).

Adina talked with the kids about composting and she brought some great teaching tools: dirt, bunny balls, and bugs. The kids learned that composting is simply Nature's way of recycling and that if it weren't for organic compost, the Earth would be covered with rocks and sand, manure and garbage.

The kids learned how to make home compost piles and what NOT to put in them (NO ANIMAL PRODUCTS-they attract carniverous animals like raccoons and rats).

Thank you, Adina, for sharing your wealth of information - and cool bunny balls - and engaging the kids in another aspect of gardening for great health (ours and our planet's).

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

To your perfect health,

Nancy Heinrich
Founder, Growing Healthy Kids

Sunday, December 6, 2009

Our First Kayak Garden

Paradise greetings,

Can you believe this is already day 4 of the Growing Healthy Kids blog?

This afternoon I attended the Christmas party for American Association of University Women. In conversation, I described the Growing Healthy Kids project, planting gardens for the kids, getting the kids out kayaking once a week, and other fun stuff. She got very excited about it and went off to tell another woman about the project who said she has just seen one of our gardens. Yippy!!

We need to deliberately choose to grow healthy kids. It is NOT OK that kids eat too many calories, especially excess fat calories. I guess everyone thinks it is OK because I sure don't see the Florida Department of Health or major employers or health insurance companies doing much about this increasing epidemic of children who weigh twice what they should. They probably think they're doing something, but what??

This weekend Growing Healthy Kids particpated in the amazing Christmas party for 100 unmatched kids (kids yet to be matched with a mentor) in Youth Guidance. We had a blast planting little pots of parsley for the kids to take home. I couldn't help and observe that so many kids there would benefit from the increased exercise and the weekly healthier eating lessons we are doing.

What breaks the heart of God must break the heart of man...

Last month, some Boys and Girls Clubs kids met me at our kayak partner and we transformed an old, leaky sit-on-top kayak into a spectacular garden container. Mike Beck with Kayaks Etc. cut off the top, moved it next to U.S.1 in front of their shop, and we filled it with dirt and compost. Then the kids and I planted an herb garden in it! I'll go by this week and take a picture what it looks likes now and share it with you! It's such an awesome garden. '
The idea is to recycle and repurpose things into garden containers. Create garden art wherever you are!

Let's teach kids to think outside the box - and play in the dirt! It does a body good!

To your perfect health,

Nancy Heinrich
Founder, Growing Healthy Kids

Saturday, December 5, 2009

A Child's Tender Touch

Paradise greetings,

Since Growing Healthy Kids planted its first gardens in October, there has been a lot of joy and fun watching the kids connect with nature in a way that many of them have not done before. When we meet outside at the garden it is to first observe and record the changes. What has changed from the previous week? How much have our plants grown? Any weeds? Bugs? How big are the tomatoes?

What I am observing is how gently the children tend their garden. When I point out a weed that has sprung up, someone will carefully and methodically pull it out so they get the roots.

Many of the kids I'm playing with live in rental houses. Some are moving from relative to relative because a parent had their job down-sized. Some kids live in apartments, some in duplexes. They don't have anyplace where they can grow a plant, take care of it, and watch it grow. Some of the kids have told me they are glad they have a garden now so they can learn how to make things and provide some food to help their parents.

When Growing Healthy Kids surveyed 150 kids in the summer, most kids said they wanted to learn how to cook healthy foods, so we are doing that. They are learning to make healthy snacks. They do so enthusiastically. They are getting to choose health.

I am thankful that my Vero Beach Kiwanis Club members have totally embraced this project. I am thankful that the staff of Boys and Girls Clubs of Indian River County has allowed me to build boxes filled with dirt and plants and bring weekly lessons to the children they serve. I am thankful that the Youth Guidance program loves what Growing Healthy Kids is bringing to the kids they serve.

A lot of what Growing Healthy Kids is about is teaching kids to respect nature. When we respect nature, we learn how to respect ourselves and each other.

Growing Healthy Kids is about 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

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

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Welcome to the Garden Adventure

Paradise greetings to you!

I'm Nancy Heinrich, founder of Growing Healthy Kids. This new organization is building gardens for children as a way to teach kids, their families, and their communities about the importance of eating locally grown, fresh, whole foods. So many kids in America are spending hours and hours in front of computers and game systems and are attending schools where physical education programs have been cut back or eliminated.

We are creating innovative ways to teach, empower, and motivate kids to go outside and learning about the simplicity of health from the perspective of where foods come from and where they go, from seed to table. The idea for Growing Healthy Kids was "planted" by the national cooperative agreement between Kiwanis Clubs and Boys and Girls Clubs of America to work together to improve the lives of kids.

We are working in partnership with three organizations to improve the health - and lives - of children, one garden and one child at a time. Boys and Girls Clubs of Indian River County, which serves about 1400 kids, and Youth Guidance Mentoring & Activities Program, which serves about 700 kids who have a parent in jail or in prison, are the kids we serve.

Please follow us as we share the story of building vegetable gardens for kids, teach them how to put together kid-friendly foods using fresh ingredients, and watch as they teach us lessons about how we each can choose to live healthy.

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