Olivewood Gardens and Learning Center Increases Bilingual Programming to Promote Equity and Improve Access

NEWS // FEbruary 17, 2021

olivewood gardens and learning center promotes health equity in national city 

Author: Shaun Png, Student Intern, Live Well San Diego Support Team

Olivewood Gardens and Learning Center provides the tools and resources local residents need to be healthy and active citizens in an inclusive and culturally responsive way. To create more equitable practices within their programs, Olivewood Gardens assessed their surrounding community of National City to find that 63% of residents identified as Latinx or Hispanic, with Spanish being the most widely spoken language.

In response to these findings, the non-profit looked for ways to increase bilingual offerings and improve access to their programming.

Recent changes include:

“For 10 years we’ve stood for equity, integrity, community, health, and transformation,” said Jen Nation, Executive Director of Olivewood Gardens.

“We will continue to provide the highest quality programs to ensure health equity and environmental justice and will continue to work WITH our community to drive program options. We can’t wait until the day we can welcome you all back to the garden to see our program impact in action.”



Olivewood Gardens is improving health and environmental stewardship by providing children, adults, and families in the community with the tools to make informed and healthy decisions in the kitchen, in the community, and for the environment.

As a result of participating in their programs:

  • 91% of parents report that their families are eating more fruits and vegetables,
  • 83% of third-grade students report that they are more likely to try new foods,
  • 83% of teachers report that their students demonstrated environmentally conscious behavior,
  • 100% of Cooking for Salud graduates report that they are confident about sharing healthy eating with others in their community, and
  • 100% of high school internship participants report increased job readiness.

They have hosted over 100,000 visits from children and families, provided field trips to 1,700 students annually, and graduated over 250 Kitchenistas® from their adult nutrition education program.                 


Children’s Garden and Nutrition Program

The Children’s Garden and Nutrition Program helps children learn about environmental and nutritional science, and healthy behavior by teaching them knowledge and skills in cooking, communication, teamwork, urban farming, food security, and the farm to table connection.

“My students each year are amazed by how vegetables grow and take more ownership of their food choices because now they have the experience of understanding where our food comes from and being part of the process of cooking delicious healthy food,” said a fourth-grade teacher from Las Palmas elementary school. “My class has made many connections to our fourth-grade science concepts such as plant cycles and the importance of the 3Rs (reduce, reuse and recycle) on our changing environment. My favorite part is cooking in the kitchen because it is an intimate bonding experience. People across the globe bond over a meal and we are able to do just that within our classroom community.” 


Cooking for Salud

Cooking for Salud is a bilingual English and Spanish nutrition education and behavior modification program designed to teach participants how to make healthy changes at home that will improve their families’ short and long-term health outcomes. With guest chef volunteers and instruction centered around food and nutrition, the program requires an 8-week commitment, once a week for three hours. When participants graduate, they become Kitchenistas and continue to be involved in a community of support that has the mission of expanding and sharing knowledge about healthy living. Through this program, adults learn to develop skills such as leadership development; healthy, culturally relevant cooking; job skills; and financial literacy and security through paid opportunities.