Teaching Gardens - Great Rivers Affiliate

Updated:Aug 1,2016

The American Heart Association is taking a fresh new approach in the fight against childhood obesity by working with America’s schools to teach kids about healthy living through fun, hands-on Teaching Gardens. .

The Teaching Gardens are real-life learning laboratories where elementary school students can learn what it truly means to be healthy; a first step in reversing the obesity epidemic. Enhancing the diets of children is essential – currently, less than one percent of the adult population and nearly no children ages 12-19 are in ideal heart-health, in large part due to the lack of a healthy diet. And if this trend continues, experts predict this generation to be the first to live shorter lives than their parents.Research shows the gardens dramatically change the way children think about food and consume it – it indicates children who participate in school gardening programs have a greater chance of trying and liking fruits and vegetables and are more prone to eat their garden-grown food for up to six months.  

The garden will not only offer education on nutrition and healthy food choices, they will ultimately help the students be more productive in school. Studies also show that normal weight children have higher scholastic achievement, less absenteeism and higher physical fitness levels than their obese counterparts. In fact, one study suggests that nutritional education, combined with garden-based learning, is more effective than either alone in changing students’ fruit or vegetable intake.
To make progress in its mission to improve the health of all Americans and reduce cardiovascular mortalities, the American Heart Association must continue to create and manage programs that combat the childhood obesity epidemic. Combined with partnerships and the association’s credibility and scientific expertise, the organization is uniquely suited to do so. The American Heart Association has a 40-year history as a leader in the field of nutrition, physical activity, and obesity prevention through its efforts based strictly on leading medical and scientific information. And through the My Heart. My Life. platform, the association is engaged with more than 100 local companies who are passionate about bettering the health of our community. 
Childhood Obesity
  • Nearly one in three children and adolescents in the U.S. is overweight or obese.
  • There is no single cause of obesity; it is influenced by lifestyle habits, environment and genetics. But, in the majority of cases, it boils down to a pretty simple equation: We are taking in more calories than we are burning. American eating habits are leading to modern day “malnutrition,” with diets full of foods with little or no nutritional value.
  • Being overweight or obese has a negative impact on almost every organ in the body.
  • Among children today, obesity is causing a broad range of health problems that previously weren’t seen until adulthood. These include high blood pressure, type 2 diabetes, asthma, sleep apnea and elevated blood cholesterol.
  • Obese children are more prone to low self-esteem, negative body image and depression.
  • Overweight children have a 70-80 percent chance of being overweight adults.
  • A recent study found that children ages 7-13 who are overweight are at an increased risk of developing heart disease beginning at age 25.6.
  • Some experts believe that if obesity among children continues to increase, our current generation will become the first in American history to live shorter lives than their parents.
  • French fries are the most common vegetable consumed by children and make up one-fourth of children’s vegetable intake. Juice, which may lack important fiber found in whole fruits, accounts for 40 percent of children’s daily fruit intake