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K-State Today

February 4, 2013

Growing food, families: K-State to introduce family gardening program

Submitted by Nancy B. Peterson

Children typically like to dig in the dirt and play with the garden hose.

And, when introduced to gardening, they also are more likely to eat fruits and vegetables they grow, and that’s why K-State Research and Extension is introducing a new, family-friendly gardening program this spring.

The goal is to make learning about food, nutrition and healthy choices a productive – and enjoyable – experience for families, said Andrea Feldkamp, who developed the new educational series to help clients who qualify for the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program.

Feldkamp serves as Kansas’ assistant coordinator for the USDA’s Family Nutrition, or SNAP-Ed, and Expanded Food and Nutrition Education programs, with responsibilities for matching nutrition education opportunities to needs in the state.

Feldkamp, who noted the health benefits of fruit and vegetables, advocates eating a variety of seasonal fruits and vegetables to manage weight, decrease obesity, reduce the risks of some cancers, heart disease, high blood pressure, and pulmonary diseases, and promote regularity, which also promotes to health.

Increasing physical activity, such as digging, weeding and watering, also can be helpful in preventing or delaying the onset of diabetes, she said.

According to Feldkamp, even a small garden can increase access to food and decrease food costs.

In considering opportunities to reach and teach families, Feldkamp has drawn from resources at the USDA, K-State, and the Denver Urban Garden’s school curriculum to create six can do-lessons for families.

The first three focus on the relationship between food, nutrition and health:
* “Healthy Bodies/ Healthy Gardens;”

* “What are Whole Grains?” and how are they different than refined grains, and

* “Fruits and Vegetables” and why eating more fruits and vegetables is essential for health.

The second three — of six — lessons focus on basic gardening and growing food successfully:

* “Introducing the Seed” offers opportunities to learn about the different parts of various seeds and the role of each part in the growth process;
* “Dig In!”  focuses on preparing the soil and how nutrients in the soil support plant growth, and

* “Spring Planting” includes tips for planting seeds and seedlings after your area’s frost-free date and caring for them throughout the growing season.

Many people also may not realize that in Kansas it’s possible to have both spring and fall crops.

Each educational session includes practical how-tos and a recipe related to the lesson, and families also are encouraged to record their progress in a garden journal, Feldkamp said.

And, while gardening at home is a possibility for many, even with a small yard, Feldkamp encourages container gardening when ground is not available, and community gardens that also provide opportunities for families to become acquainted with others in their community while gardening.

Beginning gardening requires minimal equipment, and, if participating in a community garden, equipment often is provided, she said.

The new Family Gardening curriculum is available in K-State Research and Extension offices participating in the USDA’s Snap-Ed programs, and the curriculum also will be made available on the Web so that others can benefit.

More information on food, nutrition and health, and managing family meals successfully is available at K-State Research and Extension offices in each of Kansas’ 105 counties, and online at www.ksre.ksu.edu/humannutrition.