The Richman Elementary School Garden Program: A Collaborative Effort to Prevent Long-Term Obesity Rates in a Local Community
Authors:Yamelith Aguilar, Tracy Bryars, Erika Vargas
Mentor:Michele Mouttapa, Assistant Professor in the Department of Health Science, California State University, Fullerton
Purpose: To describe the first year of a joint partnership to implement and evaluate the Richman School Garden Program, for K-6th grade students. Partners include the Fullerton School District, California State University, Fullerton (CSUF), Saint Jude’s Medical Center, and the Home Depot of Fullerton. By students growing organic foods, we encourage healthier eating habits and an active outdoor lifestyle, both of which are associated with obesity prevention. Background: Richman Elementary School is located in Fullerton, California. Nearly all (92%) of the students are Latina/Latino, and 89% of students qualify for free or reduced price lunches. These students are at increased risk of overweight/obesity. The Richman School Garden Program has been in existence for 11 years, and the new partnerships are meant to increase the long-term sustainability of the program, and valuable service-learning/research experiences for CSUF students. Methods: At pre-test and post-test, parents of participating students completed a questionnaire to determine, based upon their preferences, which plants to grow in the garden, and their knowledge of nutrition. To date, students have prepared the garden and have received lessons about gardening techniques and nutrition. A harvest party and parent day will be held to teach both the parents and the students about their crops, provide easy, healthy recipes, and conduct taste testing. Anticipated Short-Term Outcomes: Participating children will gain significant knowledge regarding the consumption of fresh produce, and both parents and children will demonstrate an increased preference for eating fresh fruits, vegetables, herbs, and edible flowers. Conclusions: The Richman School Garden enables students to make the experiential connections between gardening and learning about the benefits of consuming plant-based foods. The partnership among a local school district, university, hospital, and a commercial business described here is an example of successful collaboration in action, focused on creating positive health-related habits for our next generation.