Edible Schoolyards take a bite out of childhood obseity

It takes just one person to sow the seeds for a better Brooklyn.

Heap spades of gratitude upon Alice Waters, an American chef, restaurateur, activist and humanitarian — and a hothouse of innovative, imaginative learning — for cultivating the brilliant idea of incorporating a garden and kitchen curriculum in public schools so that our future leaders will be healthy and environmentally conscious ones, too.

Now, Brooklyn can proudly add another “first” to its ever-growing list of accomplishments: It boasts the first public school in the city — Gravesend’s PS 216 — to implement Waters’ Edible Schoolyard program. Lucky children there have the opportunity to plant and harvest their own produce for school lunches in a lush garden planted right in their school yard, plus use it to prepare healthful meals in an on-site model kitchen. What could be better?

The life skills gained by observing Mother Nature lovingly at work — and the thrill of lending her a helping hand — are unforgettable and second to none. Moreover, planting a respect in children for wholesome, flab-fighting foods is a lesson that cannot be taught early enough. Sowing and reaping their own food — for themselves and by themselves — makes youngsters enjoy the fruits of their labors all the more, and equips them with the most important tool around: sound self-nourishment.

The Edible Schoolyard campaign promises ample rewards and provides even more learning opportunities for curious young minds — from our agrarian history, without which mankind would cease to exist, and the social phenomena of harvest holidays, to the bright green bond of friendship formed when pint-sized plant buddies are taught to ply their green thumbs for the greater good of their communities.

Plans are underway to expand the proactive program in more than 25 Brooklyn schools, with an Edible Academy in each borough to bring the sweet relationship between food, health and the environment to the table.

Simply put, we are what we eat, and the statistics are disturbing to be sure: According to the National Center for Chronic Disease Prevention and Health Promotion, childhood obesity has more than tripled in the past 30 years. Obese youth are more at risk for cardiovascular disease, such as high cholesterol or high blood pressure, and in a population-based sample of 5- to 17-year-olds, a whopping 70 percent of obese youth had at least one risk factor for cardiovascular disease, reports the organization. That’s not including debilitating bone and joint problems, sleep apnea, and social and psychological issues such as stigmatization and poor self-esteem — all of them circumvented by proper nutrition.

Thanks to creative approaches, such as Edible Schoolyards, Brooklyn’s children are now poised to show their peers everywhere that they are in a class by themselves. There is no better investment in our future than to teach our young people about the joys of living another, healthful day by eating properly prepared whole foods. The icing on the cake is when concerned individuals, such as Alice Waters, point them in the right direction.

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