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School Garden Program Teaches Kids to Eat and Grow Healthy Food

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School Garden Program Teaches Kids to Eat and Grow Healthy Food

Since a taste for processed, sugar- and salt-heavy foods is developed at a young age, many healthy food initiatives are focusing on kids. And that means schools, where healthy eating programs are multiplying. Many of those go beyond just providing better quality food in lunch programs to educate and excite children about how food is grown and prepared.

Captain Planet Foundation's Learning Garden project gets kids excited about healthy food. Photo credit: Captain Planet Foundation

The mission of the 23-year-old Atlanta-based Captain Planet Foundation, founded by media mogul Ted Turner, is to encourage students to assume environmental leadership in their communities while beefing up their knowledge in all subject areas. Its Project Learning Garden program, for instance, teaches them about food production and processing while incorporating lessons in math, science, history, language arts and health. 

"One key element often overlooked in getting kids to eat better is the importance of how they eat at school," said Project Learning Gardens' program manager Kyla Van Deusen. "Kids learn how to enjoy fruits, vegetables and salads as a part of lunch, and this program has a direct impact on developing their palates from an early age. That palate development can also have an impact on how their parents eat, home meal preparation and on childhood obesity."

"Parents often report that their children ask them to buy new vegetables at the grocery store after growing and cooking the veggies themselves as part of a school garden program," she added. "One five-year-old said she preferred eating raw Brussels sprouts in the garden to her sour gummy worm treat!"

The program, which piloted in the 2011-2012 school year, is growing by leaps and bounds. Now, with more than 100 gardens in Atlanta, 10 more in Ventura, California that will be functioning by the end of this year and resources provided to more than 700 school gardens across the country, the Captain Planet Foundation is looking for ways to reach more kids and more schools.

As of this month, K-5 teachers and school groups anywhere in the U.S. are able download the program as well as purchase a supply kit to launch the program. The expansion is getting help from two partners. National food-to-school organization FoodCorps, part of the AmeriCorps Service Network, is providing service members to help create nutrition education programs, build and maintain school gardens (including planning for the knotty issue of summer garden maintenance when school is out) and bring quality local foods to school cafeterias.

Captain Planet Foundation also partners with packaging company Pratt Industries to allow schools that already have gardens to download the Learning Gardens standards-based lessons for free and order the classroom supply kits for $500. Schools can also order the Learning Gardens mobile cooking cart at cost, also about $500, shipping included.

Watch this great video to learn more:

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A plume of smoke from wildfires burning in the Angeles National Forest is seen from downtown Los Angeles on Aug. 29, 2009 in Los Angeles, California. Kevork Djansezian / Getty Images

California is bracing for rare January wildfires this week amid damaging Santa Ana winds coupled with unusually hot and dry winter weather.

High winds, gusting up to 80- to 90 miles per hour in some parts of the state, are expected to last through Wednesday evening. Nearly the entire state has been in a drought for months, according to the U.S. Drought Monitor, which, alongside summerlike temperatures, has left vegetation dry and flammable.

Utilities Southern California Edison and PG&E, which serves the central and northern portions of the state, warned it may preemptively shut off power to hundreds of thousands of customers to reduce the risk of electrical fires sparked by trees and branches falling on live power lines. The rare January fire conditions come on the heels of the worst wildfire season ever recorded in California, as climate change exacerbates the factors causing fires to be more frequent and severe.

California is also experiencing the most severe surge of COVID-19 cases since the beginning of the pandemic, with hospitals and ICUs over capacity and a stay-at-home order in place. Wildfire smoke can increase the risk of adverse health effects due to COVID, and evacuations forcing people to crowd into shelters could further spread the virus.

As reported by AccuWeather:

In the atmosphere, air flows from high to low pressure. The setup into Wednesday is like having two giant atmospheric fans working as a team with one pulling and the other pushing the air in the same direction.
Normally, mountains to the north and east of Los Angeles would protect the downtown which sits in a basin. However, with the assistance of the offshore storm, there will be areas of gusty winds even in the L.A. Basin. The winds may get strong enough in parts of the basin to break tree limbs and lead to sporadic power outages and sparks that could ignite fires.
"Typically, Santa Ana winds stay out of downtown Los Angeles and the L.A. Basin, but this time, conditions may set up just right to bring 30- to 40-mph wind gusts even in those typically calm condition areas," said AccuWeather Senior Meteorologist Mike Doll.

For a deeper dive:

AP, LA Times, San Francisco Chronicle, Washington Post, Weather Channel, AccuWeather, New York Times, Slideshow: New York Times; Climate Signals Background: Wildfires, 2020 Western wildfire season

For more climate change and clean energy news, you can follow Climate Nexus on Twitter and Facebook, sign up for daily Hot News, and visit their news site, Nexus Media News.

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