Changing Habits Academically, Mentally, Physically, and Sustainably with Gardens
CHAMP's Gardens is a school and community-based program that works to build healthy school environments. The program supports healthy eating and active living among youth, their families, school staff, and the community.
- Build environments that support healthy choices and make access to healthy foods and safe physical activity readily available.
- Help reduce disease and economic burden of diabetes and improve quality of life for persons who have or are at risk for diabetes.
- Promote health and reduce chronic disease risk through healthy diets and achievement and maintenance of healthy body weights.
- Improve health, fitness and quality of life through daily physical activity.
CHAMP'S Garden Projects
CHAMP'S Gardens is about more than just gardens. The main focus of this project is to change the culture in Metro Nashville Public Schools (MNPS) to one that is more supportive of health and wellness initiatives. This was accomplished by partnering school gardens with community education, physical activity, nutrition and cooking lessons, and fitness trails. Through systems, policy and environmental change, students, staff, and the communities in and around these schools will have the tools necessary to overcome barriers to living healthy.
The school gardens in CHAMP'S gardens are specifically designed for each school. Unique features work specifically to engage students and teachers at each grade level as well as to maximize benefits for students physically, mentally, socially, and academically.
Each school cluster hosted teaching kitchens for students, staff and community members. The purpose of these teaching kitchens was to increase awareness, knowledge, and consumption of locally-grown fruits and vegetables while providing the skills and tools needed to prepare healthy meals at home. Teaching Kitchens featured locally-grown produce available in school gardens, a nutrition lesson centered around the food, a cooking lesson that supported the nutrition lesson, taste-testing, and incentives for participation.
One of the most exciting projects in the CHAMP'S Gardens Project was the addition of a Fitness Trail at one school within each cluster.
These trails will be incorporated into the current garden projects and showcases the potential schools have to increase curb appeal in the school and community. School Fitness Trails are safe for all ages as well as ADA accessible and should be complete by the summer of 2012.
In addition to the fitness trails, VCHIP will work closely with MNPS on Joint Use Agreements to keep the fitness trails open after regular school hours.
While school gardens are a great way to connect students, staff, and community members back to their food, more needs to be done to instill life long healthy habits. Students were exposed to new concepts in healthy eating and challenged to think outside the box when it comes to their own choices with food. In addition to providing nutrition education to the elementary schools, CHAMP'S Gardens featured curriculum targeted toward middle and high school students as well. Staff had the opportunity to bring in Nutrition Specialists whom will deliver structured curricula that will inspire students not only to make changes in their own lives, but empower them to help others make healthy changes as well.
Staff Wellness Program
One of the most successful programs that VCHIP has launched in MNPS schools has been the staff wellness program. The staff wellness program features bi-weekly weigh-ins, weekly health and wellness newsletters, staff support, and lunch and learns. This year, 224 participants in eight schools lost a total of 866 pounds!
Nashville School Garden Coalition
CHAMP'S Gardens has helped continue and develop the Nashville School Garden Coalition (NSGC) in MNPS. The coalition is a group of teachers, parents, community volunteers and school garden advocates who work together to support school gardens in Nashville. NSGC envisions a city where students, families, and the community are healthier, academically successful, and environmentally sound through the involvement in school gardens. Since July, the NSGC has launched a website page, along with several new ways to connect through social media. Check out the Nashville School Garden Coalition website for more details on how to get involved and connect.
Health and Wellness Library
© 2013 Monroe Carell Jr. Children's Hospital at Vanderbilt