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Sowing Seeds of Better Health

Garden Plans Walk to Raise Awareness

For more than 30 years, the Washington Youth Garden of The U.S. National Arboretum helped District families incorporate healthy eating and lifestyle habits in their daily lives.

This weekend, in keeping with that mission, supporters of the garden will hold a “Dig In Your Heels” fun run/walk on Sunday.


It is a 5K race to raise awareness about healthy eating and food nutrition through exercise. The event will also promote the youth garden as a resource for area residents.


The garden, created in 1971 by the D.C. Department of Parks and Recreation, sits on a three-fourth acre lot on the National Arboretum grounds, filled with flowers, trees and vegetation, just 10 minutes from the U.S. Capitol. [IMGCAP(1)]


It is a project of the Friends of the National Arboretum, an independent nonprofit organization that was established to enhance support for the U.S. National Arboretum through public and private resources.


The youth garden provides programs and activities throughout the year for children to develop nourishing food habits. Most programs begin in the spring and continue through the fall, as the weather plays a major factor in harvesting the crops.


“Weather is always a factor and not only affects the plants, but the insect life cycles as well,” said Kim Rush, program director for the youth garden. “The largest problem tends to pertain to the overabundance or complete lack of water depending on the year and season.”


The summer programs, such as Seed to Supper, are the most popular with District children. It is an eight-week program that takes place in July and August. According to the youth garden’s Web site, “the children participate in an intensive gardening and environmental science program that incorporates multiple disciplines including knowledge about cooking, nutrition, taste, and the origins of food.”


The organization invites chefs from local restaurants to educate the children about food preparation and healthy eating. Rush says the chefs’ involvement is a key asset to the program, as the children benefit from an in-depth and hands-on experience with a professional.


The youth garden program also goes to D.C. Public Schools and teaches a once-a-week two-hour science program that educates the students about plant, environmental, and earth and life sciences, and prepares students to cultivate produce in its Garden Science program. By the spring, the students are able to plant, mulch, weed and fertilize the vegetation.


The participating schools are usually chosen from the Northeast section of the District. For this school year, WYG chose Bunker Hill, Holy Name, Langdon, Young and Webb elementary schools.


Rochelle Fair, a Bunker Hill third-grade teacher, says her students are exposed to certain plant life cycles that they normally would not be because of their urban environment.


“The children are exposed to a hands-on experience to different life cycles of plants, food, and seeds,” Fair said. She added that the children are able to use this information in their daily lives, as the program teaches them about a healthy lifestyle through nutrition.


The youth garden school program works with the D.C. Science Standards to improve reading, math, social studies and science skills. It also provides an interdisciplinary science program that takes the students out of the classroom and into the garden.


This weekend’s “Dig In Your Heels” event serves not only to promote healthy lifestyles, but also to invite the community to enjoy the National Arboretum, Rush said. “It is a remarkable yet underutilized resource in the community.”


Rush stressed that the race/walk is primarily to serve the community. She wants to raise money for this event, but her goal is to allow District residents to take advantage of this educational and fun opportunity, she said.


To learn more about the walk or the garden, visit www.usna.usda.gov.

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