These Colorado preschoolers learn hands-on farming to prevent childhood obesity
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These Colorado preschoolers learn hands-on farming to prevent childhood obesity

March 9, 2020


JUDY WOODRUFF: But first: a look at an effort
to prevent childhood obesity by adding food gardening to the curriculum in Colorado preschools. Special correspondent Cat Wise has our report. It’s for our weekly series on education and
schools, Making the Grade. CAT WISE: It’s an old classroom sing-along
with a new twist, MacDonald’s animals replaced by vegetables. Children in this Pueblo, Colorado, preschool
are learning the ABCs of locally grown produce. STUDENT: Jalapenos. WOMAN: Jalapenos. CAT WISE: Vegetables take center stage in
everything from the vocabulary they learn to the art they create and the plays they
perform. WOMAN: One day, the farmer went out to pull
it, and they pull, and out popped a great big zucchini. BRITTANY MARTENS, �MD-BO�Nutrition Educator:
We’re really bringing farm-to-preschool to Colorado. CAT WISE: Brittany Martens is the nutrition
educator for a new preschool program funded by the U.S. Department of Agriculture called
CHOP, an acronym for Cooking up Healthy Options with Plants. It’s an effort by the Colorado Health Department
to combat childhood obesity with hands-on farming. And it’s part of a growing farm-to-preschool
movement in early education centers. BRITTANY MARTENS: Children in Colorado are
not eating the recommended amount of fresh fruits and vegetables. WOMAN: I see something yellow right here. CAT WISE: The centerpiece of CHOP’s curriculum
is a garden grown by preschoolers. BRITTANY MARTENS: We want to take these things
from the garden and make it a norm on their plate, so it’s not like an alien. It’s no longer the hated squash. It’s now something that they have grown, they
have picked, they have harvested, and they’re going to be more willing to try it. CAT WISE: One in five Colorado children ages
2 to 4 are obese. The problem is particularly pronounced in
low-income and heavily Hispanic communities, like the neighborhood that surrounds Pueblo’s
East Side Child Care Center. Maria Subia is the center’s director: MARIA SUBIA, Director, East Side Child Care
Center: Over 80 percent of the children that come here are from low-income family households,
between 70 percent and 80 percent with a Hispanic heritage. WOMAN: Let’s pull out this kale. CAT WISE: Health officials hope early exposure
to vegetables will lead children away from high-calorie processed food linked to obesity. BRITTANY MARTENS: Children of this age are
so naturally curious. They’re so inquisitive and just really in
touch with the world. They love dirt and worms. These children have a connection with the
earth. They get to put a seed in the dirt and watch
it sprout and blossom, and then that blossom turns into a vegetable. WOMAN: So, what do we use to cut up our squash? CAT WISE: According to the Centers for Disease
Control, 40 percent of obese children remain obese into adolescence, and 75 percent of
adolescents go on to become obese adults, facing increased risk for heart disease and
diabetes. WOMAN: For our luncheon tomorrow. STUDENT: Yummy. CAT WISE: Nicole Cawrse manages the Women,
Infants, and Children program, known as WIC, in Pueblo. NICOLE CAWRSE, WIC Program Manager: The chance
of becoming an obese adult substantially increases once you hit the age of 8. CAT WISE: But for families that live near
Pueblo’s East Side Child Care Center, buying fresh and nutritious food isn’t always easy,
especially if you don’t own a car. DAVID HOVAR, NeighborWorks Southern Colorado:
The East Side in Pueblo is the poorest neighborhood in town. CAT WISE: David Hovar, from the nonprofit
NeighborWorks Southern Colorado, is working to connect Pueblo’s East Side residents with
fresh produce, after their only grocery store was shuttered more than a year ago. DAVID HOVAR: This is the Dollar General. This has kind of become the food source for
this area. When you go in, it’s typical packaged foods. They have refrigerated drinks and shelf stable
stuff. But there aren’t any fresh fruits and vegetables. The bus system ends at about 5:00 p.m. every
day, and so it doesn’t run on the weekends either. So, I figure, if you’re working, and you don’t
have a way to get around, it kind of creates this little island after 5:00, and there’s
nowhere to go for fresh food. WOMAN: You got to pull it down, same thing,
and then you got to turn it. Good job. CAT WISE: Many of the children at East Side
Child Care Center receive the majority of their daily food here. WOMAN: Oh, look, there’s a ladybug on it. CAT WISE: But for parents and educators, the
new gardens are also an opportunity for learning that goes beyond nutrition. Fawn Montoya says planting has taught her
daughter, Cecilia (ph), new concepts at an early age. FAWN-AMBER MONTOYA, Mother: I think math is
one of the biggest things, right, how far apart the seeds are from each other, how many
seeds do you actually put in the ground, how far in the ground? So, is it a half-an-inch, is it a quarter-of-an-inch? And then they’re also having the conversations
about the science behind it, the concept that the sun is needed to actually grow the plants,
and the water is needed to grow the plants. FAWN-AMBER MONTOYA: Tell your mom and dad,
or your grandma and grandpa, or your aunts and uncles that you used a metate. CAT WISE: On this day, Montoya taught children
how to grind corn with a stone metate, a process she hopes will connect children to history,
as well as their own Mexican heritage. FAWN-AMBER MONTOYA: I’m hoping, when they
go home and talk about it, that their parents might have seen it before, so it might start
a conversation in the home as far as what their family members ate and what their family
grew, that cultural history around food. CAT WISE: In the coming years, health department
officials hope to expand CHOP’s preschool project statewide. For the “PBS NewsHour,” I’m Cat Wise in Pueblo,
Colorado.

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