Rachel Roberts, Graduate Student Intern, County of San Diego Health and Human Services Agency, North Regions
Schools play a critical role in developing healthy eating habits for children by providing meals with essential nutrients. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, healthy school meals can improve student learning and promote academic achievement. Nutrition education programs in schools can help students make healthy choices, learn how to prepare nutritious meals and support them in achieving lifelong healthy habits.
Healthy Day Partners helps improve school lunches in San Diego County by partnering with schools to create school farms and gardens that provide students with the opportunity to grow organic fruits and vegetables for the school cafeteria and to connect general education directly to the school lunch program. The organization has helped motivate more than 5,400 students in the Encinitas Union School District to understand the direct connection between their daily meal decisions and the impact on their health.
“There is nothing more important than investing in children’s education and their health,” shared Mim Michelove, Healthy Day Chief Executive Officer and President. “School gardens provide students the opportunity to grow organic fruits and vegetables for the cafeteria, to connect nutrition education to the school lunch program and to engage in healthy eating habits.”
Recently, Healthy Day Partners, Olivewood Gardens & Learning Center, and National School District, have joined forces to address food and health equity issues in National City through the Straight 2 The Plate pilot program which works toward reducing chronic illness through interactive educational opportunities and academic lessons that help nurture healthier kids and a healthier community. The pilot program has served all 10 elementary schools in National School District and through the schools’ lunch program, about 6,000 students have access to the lettuce grown in the gardens.
The program aligns with the California Common Core curriculum standards and students learn how to grow vegetables, engage in hands-on educational activities in the garden, and observe the process of growing crops for farm-to-school lunches.
“Access to healthy food and a quality education is a basic human right no matter your zip code or income level,” shared Michelove.
“We are excited to provide locally grown produce and environmental and nutrition education to all elementary students in the National School District,” shared Jen Nation, Executive Director of Olivewood Gardens.
In the future, Healthy Day plans to continue collaborating with
schools and community partners to enhance nutrition education
curriculum that meet California education, and Next
Generation Science Standards.