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Erie Henson Garden Initiative Program

June 28, 2011 | Ginny

Erie celebrates the first days of summer with the new Henson Garden Initiative Program

The season of summer has finally arrived here in Chicago –and Erie Family Health Center does not plan on wasting a single moment of this balmy, beautiful weather. Recently, a few Erie employees volunteered their time to help break ground on the new Henson Garden Initiative Program, a part of Erie’s Health and Wellness Program at Erie Henson School Based Health Center. This program aims to promote healthy lifestyles to children living within the North Lawndale community through education on healthy eating and the importance of physical activity.

The Henson Garden Initiative is just one facet of the Henson Health and Wellness Program. The Henson Garden Initiative, which is an after school program for the students of Henson, will help children increase their knowledge of nutrition through planting and managing a garden. Since the children will be helping to assemble the garden and grow the produce, the garden will not only serve as an opportunity for education but also as an opportunity for physical activity. Children will also be able to share the information they’ve learned about healthy living to their peers through classroom presentations. Children will be sent home with produce from the garden as well as recipes to prepare with their parents at home. Any additional produce will be donated to the emergency food pantry at Henson, which help teach the students an important lesson on giving back to their community.

There are many benefits to exposing children, especially children living in urban areas, to information about healthy eating. “Exposing children to where their food comes from, how it grows and why it’s important to eat healthy foods allows them to be informed and empowered about making healthy choices,” says Elizabeth Mendoza, an Erie AmeriCorps Health Educator.  “When this information is presented at a young age, the children are then able to get a healthier start in life.”

Programs such as the Henson Garden Initiative are especially important in areas that are designated as ‘food deserts’ – which refers to areas where access to fresh produce is limited. Through informing children about healthy foods that they may not have been in contact with and educating them on the benefits of incorporating these foods into their daily diet, they are able to take this information back with them to their friends and families.

The children who have begun to participate in the program are extremely satisfied and happy to learn more about what it means to be healthy. “Each week that we have been working in the garden, more students have joined in to learn about plants, produce and – of course – to dig in the dirt,” says Lily Bevis, an AmeriCorps Health Educator.  “Several community members have also shown support for the garden through encouraging comments.”

Erie Family Health Center echoes the excitement of the children for the Henson Garden Initiative. It’s another example of the innovative ways Erie brings healthy living to Chicago – one community at a time.

 

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