Pre-K Students in Ware County Learn Healthy Eating Habits With Farm to Preschool Program

September 2, 2015

Ware County Head Start in Waycross is taking the lead in educating the state’s youngest students about nutrition, healthy eating and gardening with a new farm to preschool program.

The program affords young students an opportunity to enjoy locally grown foods, healthy eating lessons, taste tests and hands-on cooking experiences while helping to fight and prevent childhood obesity.

Inspired by the famous Dr. Seuss book, Oh, The Place You’ll Go, Ware County Head Start Center themed its farm to preschool program “Oh, The Places You’ll Grow” to transform nutrition lessons into a fun, child-friendly school activity.

The curriculum, “Discover My Plate: Growing and Being Fit,” is now implemented at all Head Start sites in Ware County and is supported through existing education-based physical activity programs such as Mind in Motion and Classroom Exercises for the Body and Brain.

“We believe that Farm to School is a wonderful opportunity to extend the nutritional opportunities to the children and families that we serve,” said Shelli Tyre, Ware County Head Start director.

Head Start leaders are particularly excited about using their farm to preschool program to encourage positive eating habits among communities that may face limited access to healthy food options.

“The majority of children and families that we serve are at-risk or low-income, so we strive to provide opportunities for them to become self-sufficient and gardening is a great way to do that. It can improve their health and financial well-being,” said Carol Clark, Head Start training and literacy specialist.

In communities where resources such as bus transportation are limited, creative avenues are used to introduce the young students to nutritious foods. As an alternative to traditional field trips, Head Start centers host in-house events that allow local farmers to speak to students and teach them how food grows.

“It amazes the students to see a seed turn into food they can consume,” said Clark. “It also is fun for them to make different snacks and use the foods for educational opportunities such as learning how to count or working with foods that represent different textures, flavors and colors.”

The Farm to Preschool program, led by Georgia Organics, is partly supported by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) 1305 grant that funds state public health actions to prevent and control diabetes, heart disease, obesity and associated risk factors while also promoting school health.

Erin Croom, Farm to School program director at Georgia Organics, explains that moving the organization’s existing farm to school program into preschool environments was a natural fit as it complies with many learning needs for children between the ages of 2 and 5.

“This age group learns best through hands-on, experiential learning, which makes farm to school activities an ideal match for their curriculum and environment,” Croom said. “Also, children are often afraid of trying new things, so it’s important for adults to present them new food options in an engaging way. The experience builds a great foundation for healthy eating that will serve children for their entire life.”

Visit www.GeorgiaHeadStart.org to learn more or find a Head Start center near you. To read about Georgia Organics’ farm to school program, visit www.GeorgiaOrganics.org

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