Elementary students get organic farming experience at USU

A group of Utah State University students have teamed up with Canyon Elementary School in Hyrum, Utah on a collaborative project to teach the young students about incorporating fresh, local vegetables into their diets.The USU Student Organic Farm and dietetics students in the USU Department of Nutrition, Dietetics and Food Sciences (NDFS) are working with the elementary students to broaden their horizons and stimulate the children’s senses about vegetables, hopefully encouraging their parents to do the same.As part of the collaboration, field trips to the organic farm have been arranged throughout the fall for second and fifth graders from Canyon. Students will learn about composting, season extension techniques, plant parts and flavor preferences during these fieldtrips. Students will also be introduced to “sensory-based” (as opposed to nutrient-based) nutrition education in the classroom, and students, parents and teachers will be provided with produce to take home for meals. USU dietetics student will also host several parent/child food preparation classes that focus on simple-to-prepare, low-cost meals utilizing the seasonal vegetables.USU will also send produce to Canyon throughout the project so that “tasting tables” can be set up to introduce students and teachers to fresh, local and seasonal produce. Canyon also plans to incorporate the fresh produce from the organic farm into its school lunch program.”It’s not late-breaking news that vegetable consumption is positively correlated with general health and negatively correlated with obesity and most chronic diseases,” said Heidi Wengreen, assistant professor in the Department of Nutrition, Dietetics and Food Sciences. “Nor is it any surprise to hear that vegetables are consistently the least favored foods among children and young-adults, or that research confirms that people of all ages consume more produce when they are involved in growing and preparing it.”The USU/Canyon project was started through a partnership between Wengreen and the Cache County School District. The project is funded by the Carol M. White Physical Education Program, which provides grants to initiate, expand, or enhance physical education programs, including after-school programs, for students in kindergarten through 12th grade.The farm, the elementary school students and their families and USU College of Agriculture students and faculty all benefit from this collaboration, said Wengreen. Vegetables are the vehicle for dietetics students to practice service learning at its finest: teamwork, teaching and communication skills, food literacy and basic gardening skills.Data will be collected and examined throughout the project to determine whether these efforts result in an ultimate behavior and attitude change about vegetables.

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