Planting Seeds for the Future

Obesity rates among American children and adolescents continue to soar, with more than twice the number of children and over four times the number of adolescents weighing in as obese, as opposed to children from 30 years ago.

The non-profit organization Common Vision is dedicated to improving the status of the roughly 6.5 million children who live in the midst of food deserts and are more susceptible to obesity. According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), food deserts are areas in which at least 33 percent of the population lives more than a mile from a large grocery store or supermarket. These areas are often in lower income areas where transportation is difficult to access, and residents tend to suffer from more medical complications than those in other areas.

Common Vision combats food deserts in California by working with schools to plant free orchards that provide students with fresh food. Its recent campaign launched via Indiegogo has exceeded its goals of $60,000 that will enable the organization to engage 15,000 more kids in planting 1,000 barren lots with fruit trees that are ripe — and free — for picking.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), more than a third of America’s children and adolescents were overweight or obese in 2012. Contributing factors include an inability to access fresh fruits and vegetables, a lack of education regarding good food choices and other lifestyle situations.

Common Vision’s Grow Fruit Grow Power vision will pull double duty on California campuses to combat these factors. Not only will students gain access to fresh fruits and vegetables in areas where they were previously denied them, but the orchards serve as outdoor classrooms. Students take an active role in the planting and nurturing of the fruit trees while learning important lessons in teamwork, environmental science and nutrition. Its innovative approach helps foster future generations of environmentally conscious, healthy Americans, something we desperately need.

A review of studies published in the Journal of School Health cites a correlation between childhood obesity with the rise in type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular complications, asthma, psychosocial problems, sleep apnea and a number of other medical conditions. According to the review, students who are obese miss more school days than other students, leading to poorer performance and lower test results. Educators and nutrition advocates have clued into this relationship, as has the government.

planting seedsThe USDA’s Healthy Hunger-Free Kids Act of 2010 sets policies for child nutrition programs across the US. The act requires students to be given one fresh fruit or vegetable option at meals. The goal is to combat obesity in American schools, but a study from the University of Vermont found that even though students were selecting more fresh fruits and vegetables at lunchtime, many of them were also throwing them away.

“It was heartbreaking to see so many students toss fruits like apples into the trash right after exiting the lunch line,” said lead author and researcher in Nutrition and Food Sciences, Sarah Amin.

Common Vision’s staff and volunteers change such dismissive attitudes and “plant the seeds of change” by getting kids involved in growing over 150,000 pounds of fresh food each year, and with great results. The more hands-on kids are in the process of food production, the greater connection they will develop with healthy, wholesome food. Common Vision’s latest campaign will ensure that more kids have access to the foods that many of us take for granted, and that’s good news in our opinion.

-The Alternative Daily


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