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Empowering children with food education in Los Angeles

IMG_3599Imagine creating a nutritious and garden-inspired menu item for a well-known restaurant owned by a celebrity chef!

This is exactly the opportunity that students in Los Angeles have thanks to the tremendous work of nonprofit organisation, GrowingGreat, which has now reached out to more than 250,000 children, teens and families across California.

Eating a freshly picked snow pea while standing in the edible garden at the centre of an elementary school in Manhattan Beach, I am in awe of the creative approach in favour of food education that is being provided to this younger generation thanks to GrowingGreat.

Founded in 1999, GrowingGreat was one of the first science-based garden and nutrition food education programs to be established in Los Angeles.

Just like the national From Paddock to Plate (FP2P) Schools Program in Australia, GrowingGreat is ‘inspiring children and adults to adopt healthy eating habits reducing the risk of obesity and disease.’

The team at GrowingGreat trains and manages over 150 volunteers per year via a virtual education portal. They watch interactive instructional videos and have access to all the tools required to deliver Classroom Nutrition Lessons (five 35-minute lessons for grades 3-5) and School Garden Program (lessons, plantings and garden projects for both Fall and Spring seasons grades K-5). There are currently more than 20 GrowingGreat schools.

“I believe that food education is critical in schools because children who haven’t had enough to eat or don’t have access to healthy foods, quickly fall behind in school, in health, and in life. I believe that food education is most successful when poverty and language-learning are addressed as part of the program, not as barriers to success,” says Jennifer Jovanovic, Executive Director of Growing Great.

“When people know where their food comes from they are empowered to make their own decisions about what they choose to eat and give to their children. GrowingGreat is committed to helping families access healthy foods no matter where they live or how much money they have.”

Educational themes of the program include:

  • ‘knowing that science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) experiences are closely related and can all be found in your garden;
  • eating a wide variety of colourful, whole foods that are close to their original source;
  • choosing higher quality, beneficial foods more often;
  • selecting local, seasonal, organic, and/or sustainably farmed foods when possible; and
  • appreciating the impact of food on your overall well-being so that you can think, feel, and perform at your best all day long.’

Diversity is key and now GrowingGreat is extending their platform to include cooking classes after school. High school students refine cooking basics, learn how to create healthy meals on a budget and make weekly meal plans.

“GrowingGreat is proud of our partnership with the parent group for Para Los Niños elementary schools in a very low-income area of Los Angeles. The parents decided to create a Healthy Kids Passport to make grocery shopping with their children a learning experience about healthy foods and to influence local markets to carry more fresh produce. Due to our expertise in bilingual science and nutrition education, GrowingGreat contributed fun hands-on activities to the Passport, which has become very popular among grade K-2 students and their preschool-age siblings.”

It is inspiring to see other organisations around the world living the true essence of ‘from paddock to plate’ (or as the North Americans refer to it as ‘farm to table’)!

Louise FitzRoy | Founder
From Paddock to Plate


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