What better time to celebrate fresh fruits and vegetables – particularly when they are so readily available from local gardens and farms – than June, designated in the U.S. as National Fresh Fruit and Vegetable Month.
Fresh fruits and veggies month has a laudable goal – increasing American’s daily consumption of fresh produce as a key element in maintaining a healthy diet. According to Harvard’s T.H. Chan School of Public Health, a diet rich in vegetables and fruits can lower blood pressure, reduce risk of heart disease and stroke, prevent some types of cancer, lower risk of eye and digestive problems, and have a positive effect upon blood sugar which can help keep appetite in check.
Healthy eating is a cause that many Junior Leagues embrace and support through the Junior Leagues’ Kids in the Kitchen program. A great example comes from the Junior League of Dallas, which has developed an eight-week curriculum of materials geared specifically toward fighting childhood obesity through healthy diets in at-risk, low-income Dallas neighborhoods.
But some Leagues have moved to create programs that focus directly on increasing the supply of fresh produce in at-risk neighborhoods. Take the Junior League of Monterey County, for example.
Since 2012, JLMC’s Growing Up Gardens program has installed edible gardens at 13 schools throughout Monterey County, reaching some 4,000 students each year. The program transforms unused parking lots and asphalt slabs into lush, inviting gardens, where kids are able to learn in an active, outdoors environment that demonstrates in a hands-on way just how versatile, delicious, and fun healthy food can be. At the same time, Growing Up Gardens provides students with increased exposure to the natural world and greater understanding of environmental stewardship.
JLMC has also partnered with the Community Hospital of the Monterey Peninsula’s Kids Eat Right program, which addresses the issue of childhood obesity by exposing children to fun physical activities that encourage healthy dietary habits. Working with Kids Eat Right, the League sponsors health fairs, including screenings, at the schools where it has installed its gardens.
And if you’re looking for some healthy and nutritious kid snacks and meals, try some of these from the KITK cookbook!