Acting Surgeon General Steven Galson visited the Rose Byrne Child Development Center on July 8 to recognize the Early Sprouts program, which was founded two years ago at Keene State College in Keene, N.H.
The program, which has since spread to 10 preschools throughout the state, is based on research indicating that children are more willing to taste a new food when they have touched, smelled, and explored it or grown it themselves.
Early Sprouts is a low-cost way to teach children the benefits of proper nutrition and how to grow food, Dr. Galson said in presenting Keene State health science professor Karrie Kalich with a “Champion Award.”
“Kids have to learn how to eat better, and the earlier the better,” Galson said. “Kids have to understand fruits and vegetables aren’t the enemy.”
Working with local Head Start centers and Keene State students and faculty, Ms. Kalich implemented the program as a way to address the community health problem of childhood obesity.
In the 24-week program, children learn about six vegetables: carrots, tomatoes, green beans, bell peppers, chard, and butternut squash.
They engage in “sensory exploration” of each vegetable to get to know it before they taste it, then help prepare a recipe featuring each vegetable.
At the end of the week, the children pack a Family Recipe Kit that includes the recipe and needed ingredients to reinforce healthy eating and food preparation at home. The program is designed to provide children with a comprehensive “seed to table” experience.
Kalich said she was worried the children would never embrace the greens from their own garden. But once they got going, she said, they didn’t stop.
“We’re really seeing a phenomenal increase in their willingness to taste and try different vegetables,” she said.
Last year, the National Gardening Association included Early Sprouts as one of five grand-prize winners from 260 applicants, and the program has received support from numerous community groups, state agencies, and businesses.
Galson’s visit was part of a nationwide tour calling attention to childhood obesity and promoting healthy lifestyles. The number of overweight children in the United States has tripled since 1980.
– Associated Press