- Author: Dohee Kim
An innovative pilot gardening project, "LA Sprouts," produced significant improvements in the health of the participating children. They gained less weight than their peers who did not participate and saw a significant improvement in their body mass index. Equally important, motivation to eat and preferences for fruits and vegetables increased. Students learned about soil health, watering, recycling, and how to plan a garden, compost and cook what they grew.
With funding from the Kaiser Foundation Hospital - Los Angeles, researchers from USC and UCLA, and master gardeners from UC Cooperative Extension's Common Ground Garden Program offered the gardening and nutrition intervention pilot project to a group of Los Angeles elementary school students, most of whom are Latino.
The 12-week project took place at the Milagro Allegro Community Garden in the Highland Park neighborhood of Northeast Los Angeles. What sprouted was quite inspirational.
"Encouraging our children to explore, grow, touch, smell, pick, prepare and eat their own organic fruits and vegetables will provide a positive healthy future for the rest of us," says Milli Macen-Moore, resident Master Gardener of the Milagro Allegro Community Garden.
The promising results will be published in two peer-reviewed journals, Journal of the American Diabetic Association and Public Health Nutrition, and the pilot study's coordinators expect the intervention to be effective in preventing obesity with a longer intervention period. The garden-based nutrition education study is the first of its kind to evaluate obesity-related parameters.
The Milagro Allegro Community Garden was founded in 2009 by Nicole Gatto, assistant research professor at UCLA. The site integrates urban farming, art and education in the heart of Northeast Los Angeles and acts as a center where peace and beauty exist among the growing fruits, vegetables and flowers. The garden features 32 raised bed plots and accommodates more than 40 families.