By Anna-Marie Menhenott
MARTIN COUNTY -- One way to get a child to eat his or her vegetables is to let them be a part of the process... from planting seeds to watering the buds to peeling and cooking the final product.
The Boys & Girls Clubs of Martin County Positive Sprouts program was created to educate young people on the importance of eating nutrient-rich fruits and vegetables and living healthy lifestyles by teaching them to build and maintain a community garden on site in Hobe Sound.
"The Positive Sprouts program is a national program that has been tweaked to benefit local children," said David Vaina, communications director for The Boys & Girls Clubs of Martin County. "We teamed up with The Pine School because they have a culinary program. Club members took cooking classes at The Pine School in preparation of cooking their own vegetables."
The program recently beat out nominations from other Boys & Girls Clubs across Florida and received the top Health & Life Skills program at last week's Florida Area Council meeting in Tampa.
From August, 2012 through May, 2013, 50 Hobe Sound children ages eight to 12 years of age participated in the program. Either two or three times a week (depending on the weather), club staff instructed children on how to plan, build, plant, maintain, and sustain the garden -- which included plenty of fruits, vegetables and herbs.
"We want the children to know that they can start small with planting herbs," Mr. Vaina said. "We are slowly getting kids to love vegetables. The idea is for them to incorporate them into their daily meals. Growing vegetables, getting their hands dirty, watering, weeding, picking them when they're ripe, and then helping in the process of eating them is enjoyable and rewarding for the kids. They are also learning basic botany and getting a lesson about the environment."
Children also participated in "Creepy Crawly" sessions where they learned about the beneficial and harmful bugs and insects in the garden.
In addition to getting their hands dirty every week, the children kept journals that visually charted the growth of the different plants in the garden. As eating healthy was a major component of the program, participants also documented in their journals what they ate at school and at home.
To reinforce eating healthy, the Positive Sprouts coordinator, Simone Scott, also held regular cooking classes in the Hobe Sound Club kitchen.
"We are getting ready to plant our fall vegetables," Ms. Scott said. "If the weather cooperates, we should be planting outside next week. If we run into bad weather, we'll start planting some things in flower pots so we can begin the process."
The Boys and Girls Club is located at11500 S.E. Lares Ave., Hobe Sound. For more information, call (772) 545-1255.