Out of School Time Programs can help children develop healthy lifestyles. They can provide hands-on, experiential learning. HealthMPowers has specific strategies for this setting. HealthMPowers helps after-school and summer programs increase access to healthy foods. It also provides opportunities for youth to be physically active.
The theme this year for the HealthMPowers Joseph B. Whitehead Boys & Girls Club was “All Hands In.” The community came together to expand an urban Out of School Time garden at the club. Excitement for the garden grew all summer. The garden thrived with the spring planting of kale, tomatoes, carrots and cucumbers. Youth and staff were more engaged every gardening session. The youth researched salsa recipes that they could make using produce from the garden. Through teamwork they created a “secret” Salsa-Salsa recipe for an annual Boys and Girls Clubs of Metro Atlanta recipe competition.
The gardening sessions taught:
- different parts of the plant
- harvesting stems
- leaves, fruits and roots to make a plant part salad
The lesson increased the youth’s awareness of the different plant parts. Prior to the lessons many children had negative opinions about vegetables. After the lessons, they were no longer afraid to try new vegetables.
In September, SEC (Southeastern Conference) athletes and Allstate Insurance community service program surprised the club with a visit. Former SEC athletes and volunteers came together. They built new garden beds, a rain-water collection system, and a composter for the garden. They also planted late summer crops and fall veggies with the youth.
“A Community is people working together to get things done.” – Jason Campbell Auburn All- Star.
HealthMPowers secured fresh soil from a local composting company for the new garden beds. The club hosted Habesha, an urban Atlanta farm, for a local food tasting experience for all of the youth. Cooking Matters was a huge success at Whitehead this year. More than 30 youth participated in the sessions over the course of 12 weeks. Parents of youth in the class commented about how excited their children were about recipes and cooking. Parents also shared how they would modify the recipes to make them at home.
The youth loved learning how to roast and use a spaghetti squash. The youth were fascinated by the squash’s resemblance to noodles. During family nights, parents enjoyed learning about Cooking Matters and the gardening programs. Parents and youth tried a turkey chili recipe with confetti cornbread on orientation night. The excitement around the club continues to grow inside and outside. Staff members are sharing changes they have made to their diets with HealthMPowers staff. The motto will continue to be “All Hands In” as the partnership and program continues to grow.
This article was submitted by HealthMPowers. For more information, please contact Lee Ann Else at 770.817.1733.