From Our Team
Posted on June 7, 2019 by Jana Renner
We’ve all heard from experts, physicians, friends and family about the benefits of eating healthier and leading an active lifestyle. Unfortunately, if these aren’t habits you picked up at an early age, they can be harder to develop later in life.
But with the help of La Semilla Food Center’s Edible Education and La Cosecha programs, students and community members of all ages in southern New Mexico and El Paso are not only learning the benefits of gardening, they are getting hands-on experiences growing, cultivating, and cooking fruits and vegetables.
The Edible Education program is funded through a partnership with the Paso del Norte Health Foundation’s Healthy Eating and Active Living (HEAL) Initiative. One of the initiative’s core objectives is to increase fruit and vegetable consumption and improve portion control in the Paso del Norte region.
Studies show that regardless of weight, a high-quality diet, including fruits and vegetables, can combat many chronic diseases, including cardiovascular disease, Type 2 diabetes and some cancers. Despite these factors, many people don’t consume the recommended amount of fruits and vegetables. Less than 25 percent of Americans eat fruits and vegetables and that number is even smaller in our region.
According to La Semilla’s Director of Operations, Krysten Aguilar, most people want fresh, healthy food, but in impoverished and minority communities, those things simply aren’t as accessible.
La Semilla has partnered with 30 schools and served over 4000 students in four school districts throughout southern New Mexico and El Paso to train teachers on incorporating school gardens and cooking activities in the classroom and provide support to the schools to establish and maintain school gardens. The Edible Education curriculum combines garden-based lessons and classroom cooking activities that expose students to the wonder of growing, preparing, and enjoying fresh healthy food with recipes like Minty Melon Medley and Lettuce Leaf Tacos.
Aguilar says she hears back from many teachers and parents who say their children become more open to eating healthy food and are invested and excited about growing their own. They even take those ideas home and start their own gardens.
They’ve also led more than 100 La Cosecha workshops with 11 community garden leaders; helped hundreds learn how to plant their own garden in their gardening workshops; held summer camps, which helped kids cultivate their green thumb; and much more.
Simply hearing about the benefits of Healthy Living and Active Living isn’t enough. Through programs like La Semilla’s school and community gardening programming, people are now learning how to put those ideas into action by growing their own fruits and vegetables and adding them to their daily food routine. And others are seeing family and community members grow their own gardens and asking how they can join in. With continued progress, changing the overall health outcomes in the Paso del Norte region can be possible.
If you would like more information about the Health Foundation’s HEAL initiative, visit pdnhf.org. For more information on La Semilla Food Center, visit lasemillafoodcenter.org.
Jana Renner is a Program Officer for the Paso del Norte Health Foundation and manages the Health Foundation’s Healthy Eating and Active Living (HEAL) Initiative. She may be reached at email@example.com or 915-218-2616.
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