Learning to Eat Healthy: Supporting Program to Reduce Childhood Obesity

Martha Rivera (left), program director, Champions for Change, presented Edison Principal Carmen Lebrecque with an award for hosting the program. Team members who guided the project were (from left) Jennie Yepez and Stephanie Rodriguez, health educators and Vanessa Cortez, project coordinator.

When children learn at an early age that growing their own food is fun – and the fruits and veggies taste good, too – they’re well on the way to eating healthy. CalFresh Healthy Living, a health education program offered in partnership by the Adventist Health Glendale Foundation and the Los Angeles County Dept. of Public Health, is working to reduce the rate of obesity, high blood pressure and type 2 diabetes among local school children. The focus is on preschool and elementary-age kids and their families, featuring interactive activities such as food demonstrations, exercise (Zumba) and gardening.

For the past two years, students at Thomas Edison Elementary in Glendale have been growing carrots, tomatoes, kale, broccoli, chard and other healthy greens, along with fruit and varieties of plants.

“Students reaped the rewards of their harvest by making a kale-broccoli-cranberry salad,” said first grade teacher Kim Labinger. “They made soup in a solar oven from the carrots, tomatoes and chard they grew and harvested themselves. Most importantly, gardening teaches students patience and how to share and how to work as a community for a common good.” 

Principal Carmen Lebrecque added, “For our students, this is a great opportunity not only to grow their own food, but to also learn how the process works, how this food affects their body, and how it helps them grow and be healthy. It’s not just about the garden; exercise is an important component.”

In June, CalFresh Healthy Living presented Principal Labrecque with a certificate of recognition. Labrecque’s dedication to this project guides the implementation of various hands on activities that connect the students to the food they eat and how it is grown.

The long-term goal of the program is sustainability of healthy consumption and exercise behaviors among the students. CalFresh Healthy Living hopes that the knowledge and experiences gained from the program will promote long-term positive health effects.