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Thanks to a program hosted by the Milagro Allegro Community Garden in Highland Park, Los Angeles, we now have proof that nutrition education helps kids stay healthy. The program, called L.A. Sprouts, is one of the nation’s first research studies to measure and demonstrate the health benefits of youth focused long-term nutrition, cooking and gardening programs.

The after school course consisted of twelve weekly classes for fourth and fifth graders from a local school. Each meeting included a healthy cooking lesson followed by a gardening session with a master gardener. Workshop leaders demonstrated new recipes to the students weekly and, working together in groups of five, the students then prepared the meal themselves. As part of the program, the students regularly visited a local farmers market and received a voucher to buy a fruit or a vegetable to take home.

With the goal of converting learning into action, the L.A. Sprouts project focuses on making eating healthier a family affair by sharing information about recipes and farmers’ markets with the parents of participating children. The result? Workshop leaders found that children and families did make changes to their eating habits as a result of participating in this project.

“L.A. Sprouts participants had increased preference for vegetable intake, specifically carrots and nopales, and increased self-efficacy for cooking and gardening compared to control students, ” said one of the project organizers, Emily Ventura, PhD, MPH, University of Southern California.

Using cookware donated by Anolon, through a partnership with Slow Food USA, L.A. Sprouts students gained hands-on experience making complete and healthy meals like quesadillas with greens, quinoa salad with kale and winter squash, and whole-wheat pasta with vegetable ragout. L.A. Sprouts was organized by the Childhood Obesity Research Center at the University of Southern California in Los Angeles.

If your local chapter has a similar garden-to-table project and is in need of in-kind cookware support, Anolon may be able to provide assistance through our Creating A Delicious Future partnership. Please contact membership@slowfoodusa.org for more information.