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AdventHealth and Urban Smart Farms partnership helps Central Florida kids eat their veggies

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Are you tired of losing the battle at the dinner table with your kids? The Boys & Girls Clubs of Volusia/Flagler Counties might have cracked the code to getting kids to eat more vegetables by turning fussy eaters into gardeners.

Through the partnership between Urban Smart Farms and AdventHealth, 18 hydroponic tower garden units, inspired by the Center-to-Table Gardens in the Orange County Convention Center, were donated to eleven community benefit organizations in Central Florida. Each tower can grow up to 28 plants using minimal water and space, making it easy and efficient even for beginners. The intention of providing the towers was to measure the impact that gardening has on participants’ mental, spiritual, and physical health.

tower gardens

“AdventHealth is dedicated to providing whole-person care to our community, and the tower gardens are helping us extend that mission outside hospital walls,” said Lorenzo Brown, AdventHealth West Volusia Market CEO. “Nutrition and healthy hobbies like gardening are among the things that connect and improve the mind, body and spirit. It is our hope that the success happening at The Boys & Girls Clubs of Volusia/Flagler Counties spreads across all of the community benefit organizations.”

The Boys & Girls Clubs of Volusia/Flagler Counties received four tower garden units earlier in the year, creating a new opportunity for every child to be involved and encouraged to learn. The club members choose what to plant and what to do with the produce. Many of them have not seen plants in any other color than green or understood where they come from.

Since growing the produce, they learned about different types of lettuce and other leafy vegetables. For one club member, the thought of eating a salad was “gross” until she started getting her hands dirty. After working hard to grow lettuce, she tried a piece and now, with a little ranch, she wants to eat more vegetables.

With the right guidance from the Club staff and mentors, the children channel their energy into leadership roles to tend to the garden. One child who has trouble sitting still and loves to take charge, keeps the tower garden clean and safe. He checks water levels every week and informs staff when anything needs refilling. The Club staff saw an opportunity with the tower gardens to allow children to develop leadership skills more productively.

“It’s our mission to help the young people who need us most to reach their full potential as productive, caring, responsible citizens,” said Stephanie Ecklin, Boys & Girls Clubs of Volusia & Flagler Counties director of development. “These tower gardens are helping the children make healthier choices and giving them the opportunity to take care of a project from beginning to end. Acquiring resources and partnerships like this is what helps us work positively to impact the lives of our Club members.”

For the staff, watching the children learn and practice healthier habits through a creative project is their favorite part about the program. Something as simple as teaching someone where their food comes from and how they can be a part of it inspires the best habits in everyone. Giving kids the power to make decisions that’ll affect their program outcomes is extraordinarily powerful.

Putting a kid’s green thumb to work will open their mind and palate to new, delicious foods, as well as instill positive character development. As these tower gardens continue to grow across the community benefit organizations, health for the body, mind and spirit will be sure to flourish.

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