The Critical Need:
3 in 10 children in DC suffer from food hardship, the second-worst rate in the country. In addition to malnourishment, a lack of nutritional options and information contributes to obesity and other health problems. An alarming 35% of youth in DC are obese or overweight. These hunger and nutrition needs are directly linked to lower academic performance and other developmental consequences for youth.
The VeggieTime Project seeks to create a sustainable community where youth and their families provide fresh produce for themselves, effect change in the food delivery system, and seek to increase nutrition education and environmental awareness in their communities.
First, students study sustainable agriculture, nutritional concepts, environmental science, and healthy living practices. Second, they apply these lessons to their school gardens by participating in planting, maintenance, and harvesting activities while engaging in hands-on math and science instruction. Third, youth use the produce in cooking classes, bring produce home to help meet family food and health needs, and sell the remaining produce at school-based and community farmers markets. As emerging social entrepreneurs, youth learn financial literacy concepts and marketing techniques. Finally, using market proceeds and their acquired knowledge, students improve the health of their community through youth-led nutritional and environmental community action projects in their schools and communities.
In the 2014-2015 School Year:
- Students maintained 75 garden beds city-wide, producing approximately 2,200 pounds of produce for consumption.
- Students made a 14 point gain on their VeggieTime assessment (73% to 87%) demonstrating measurable gains in nutritional and environmental science knowledge; ability to identify nutritional information of healthy foods; increase in basic gardening knowledge; and increased ability to cook healthy meals.
- 96% of parents reported a significant improvement in their child’s nutritional knowledge and attitudes toward healthy food and eating.