Nonprofit GrowingGreat in California and Hawaii Schools

Nonprofit GrowingGreat In California And Hawaii Schools

Thu 12 May 2011

Story by Sarah Gelb and Peggy Curry

For the first time in our nation’s history, our children will have a shorter life expectancy than their parents due to poor nutrition and lifestyle habits. The epidemic of childhood obesity—and yes it truly is an epidemic—has grabbed the attention of doctors, educators, policymakers, The First Lady and, of course, Chef Jamie Oliver.

Despite our reputation for beach bodies and fresh veggies, California’s rate of childhood obesity is no lower than the national average, and Los Angeles County ranks 6th among the highest obesity rates for the state. At GrowingGreat, we’re working hard to change these statistics.

GrowingGreat is a nonprofit school garden and nutrition education organization dedicated to inspiring children and adults to adopt healthy eating habits. We work with schools to plant and grow school gardens, design and teach classroom nutrition lessons, and provide “Harvest-of-the-Month” tastings (fresh, seasonal produce) in school lunchrooms. Through these programs and our community education events, GrowingGreat helps children and families to understand where our food comes from and to gain an appreciation that food serves a purpose to our overall health and has an impact on our longevity and well-being. We don’t tell people that any food is “good” or “bad.” Instead, our philosophy is to encourage eating a wide variety of colorful, whole foods that are close to their source and minimally processed.

Last month, GrowingGreat students at Clover Elementary School in the Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD) participated in a light harvest of their school garden. The students picked lettuce, carrots, radishes, chard, snap peas and other vegetables—all of which they had planted themselves earlier in the school year. After the harvest, the students washed the vegetables they had grown and held a classroom “salad party” where one student announced: “I didn’t know I liked radishes!” We’re glad to be the reason he now knows.

Our volunteer GrowingGreat docents taught a nutrition lesson called “Start Your Engines: High-quality Breakfasts.” Students in our programs measured the amount of sugars in common breakfast cereals versus healthier alternatives and were shocked to see that the amount of sugar in one bowl of cereal filled up a standard mason jar!

GrowingGreat currently serves 9,000 students in Los Angeles County operating in 25 schools over eight school districts. Our curriculum is also implemented in three schools in Marin City, California; five schools in Ojai, California; and twelve schools in Oa’hu, Hawaii. This year, we launched a pilot program at one elementary school in Las Vegas, Nevada. Sixty five percent of the elementary schools we serve are considered Title 1 schools.

GrowingGreat is at the heart of educational and nutritional change in Los Angeles and we are increasing our reach to many other parts of the country. We’d love you to join us in our efforts. To donate, get involved, or learn more, please visit us online at We look forward to getting our hands dirty in the gardens with you.

About the authors: Sarah Gelb is the Executive Director and Peggy Curry the co-founder of GrowingGreat.

Photo credit: Photo by Karen Parkhouse Thousand Words Imagery ©2011


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