HISD’s Nutrition Services Department is committed to alleviating childhood nutrition inequities in the Houston area. Since the establishment of Mykawa Farm, which houses the department’s Food and Agriculture Literacy Center, Nutrition Services has prioritized the practical and tangible uses of the education they provide as part of the Get Growing Houston program.
Nutrition Services recently took their ideas globally, reaching the Healthy Childhood Challenge (HCC) top 10. The international competition launched by Novo Nordisk in collaboration with UNICEF calls for ideas designed to improve the nutritional, physical and emotional well-being of children in their home environment.
The HCC is open to all communities and organizations around the world, and with a prize of $100,000 in grants to implement the top three winning ideas, the competition is fierce.
The Get Growing Houston idea proposes to hold Farmers Markets at 25 Houston-area schools to increase the availability of fresh fruits and vegetables in food desert communities. Farmers’ markets will be stocked with produce grown by the school gardening programs as well as at Mykawa Farm. HISD-trained dieticians and chefs will help increase knowledge about food and agriculture among students and parents.
Nutrition Services has already started implementing their plan on a smaller scale, having HISD students employed at Mykawa Farm sell their produce at local farmers’ markets.
“We realized that it gives kids real-world experience when they’re able to manage the markets, and it also empowers them,” said Marcus Glenn, school nutrition and agricultural science manager at HISD Nutrition Services. “They’re able to talk about what they’ve planted and why you should eat those vegetables they’ve grown versus those from the store or other places.”
Out of 100 entrants, Get Growing Houston is one of only three finalists from the United States.
“The idea was chosen because it’s a strong, multi-component program addressing food access, nutritional literacy, employability, and more,” said Get Growing coach Klaus Madsen. Houston for the HCC.
The Get Growing Houston proposition also includes educational opportunities for parents through their Parent University programs. Parents and students participate in experiential learning activities designed to increase food and farming literacy among HISD students in grades 3-12. These activities will focus on food preparation, learning about the nutritional benefits of locally grown foods, and the impact our food choices have on personal, family, and community health.
“We could use it for other fundraisers or for grant applications as recognition that our program is strong and that we have people around the world who think it’s great too,” he said. said Nan Cramer, Director of Nutrition Services.
The top 10 HCC contestants will have the opportunity to make a final presentation in front of a panel of Novo Nordisk judges. Get Growing Houston is preparing its proposal and plans to implement its ideas to work towards a more nutritionally diverse future for HISD students and their families. In order to move students beyond a consuming relationship with food, the program will continue to focus on creating mindful eating habits by ensuring that students learn to appreciate the food available to them at the House.