'Living classroom' a cooperative effort

Growing food to teach kids about nutrition
By: Don Chaddock Telegraph Managing Editor
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A small garden at a local elementary school drew plenty of media attention last week as a TV and radio station converged on Folsom for the unveiling. Mercy Folsom Hospital partnered with local organizations to breath life into a garden at Theodore Judah Elementary School. “We started this early September with the school district,” said Jan Wilcox, with the hospital. “I went to the Rotary Club and the Chamber of Commerce to see what we could do.” She said a health program dubbed “Growing Well with Mercy” was a great vehicle to push the garden. “The program focuses on obesity prevention and health and fitness,” Wilcox said. “Studies show that kids who have experience with a garden are more open to trying new foods and eating healthier.” Wilcox said local businesses and service organizations pitched in to help make it possible. Mary Ann Delleney, a nurse with the Folsom Cordova Unified School District, said the garden would be a way to help teach children about the basics of healthy eating. “In California, approximately 25 percent of us are obese,” she said. “Our school garden is here to help reverse this trend. ... It teaches us lessons in where our food comes from.” Theodore Judah Principal Sharon Heilman said the garden was the result of a community coming together. “This garden would not be here were it not for numerous organizations,” she said. “I need to thank the Rotary clubs of Folsom. They do so much for our school from the dictionary project (giving a free dictionary to all third-graders) to building planter boxes.” She also thanked the Mercy organization. “They run the (Mercy) clinic (located on the school) and make sure they keep it running for all of us,” Heilman said. Randy Castillo, one of the vice presidents at Mercy, said the garden was needed. “This has been a project that continues to evolve,” he said. Jaidyn Barker, 5, looks forward to when the garden begins to grow. “It looks good,” she said after helping water one of the plants. “It was cool to help water.” Elijah Pelott, 5, was enthusiastic. “All the plants are green right now and they’ll turn different colors,” he said. “I know broccoli is going to grow and cabbage and peas.” Shaun Harris, 5, also looked forward to what the garden will produce. “The garden is really good and there might be flowers,” Shaun said. Keegan Mills, 5, said the garden is about learning. “There’s really good vegetables,” he said. “It’ll teach other kids how to eat better.” Ben Jackson, 4, wasn’t much for words, but knew what he liked. “It’s good,” Ben said. Sadie Bowen, 5, echoed his sentiments. “I like it,” she said. For 5-year-olds Luke Wise and Gary Burt, it’s a neat learning tool. “It’s so cool,” said Luke. “I like the cabbage,” said Gary. Wilcox said the children would sample the vegetables, as most of them will make their way to the school cafeteria. There are also plans to make the vegetables available to others. “In the spring they hope to have a farmers market,” she said.