Athletes teaching health education by gardening

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1. Take care of the Earth

Scientific studies show that crime decreases in neighborhoods as as the amount of green space increases, and that vegetation has been seen to alleviate mental fatigue, one of the precursors to violent behavior (Kuo and Sullivan, 2001).
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2. Eat healthy food

Children who are familiar with growing their own food tend to eat more fruits and vegetables (Bell & Dyment, 2008), and are more inclined to continue healthy eating habits through adulthood (Morris & ZidenbergCherr, 2002).
 
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3. Get out and move

The benefits of community-based gardening projects likely extend beyond food security, as gardens provide fresh vegetables, and the process of gardening involves physical exercise (Carmey andHamada, 2012).
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Why athlete participation matters

Athlete role models are perceived as important influencers to teens. Many teenagers look up to them for what’s “cool” in products and brands (Bush, 2004). Effective health promotion and community empowerment may require the involvement of community lay health workers and active, respected community members (Wallerstein and Bernstein, 1988)
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Just by showing up, athletes can get youth to participate. We all know how big a role athletes play in young peoples lives and that young people copy what they see athletes doing.

 

Why we are planting gardens

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We chose gardens because everyone needs to eat to grow.  There is a lack of access to fresh vegetables and fruit in many neighborhoods we athletes comes from. Working with the youth gives us a chance to show them how to do something to make their own lives better. We teach them self-reliance.

A study at USC showed that nutritionally deficient children demonstrate a 41% increase in aggression at age 8 and a 51% increase in anti­social and violent behavior at age 17 (USC, 2004).
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Gardening requires patience and follow-through, two valuable traits. Community gardens are one way that residents have mobilized to beautify urban neighborhoods, improve access to fresh produce, and engage youth.

Qualitative case studies were conducted of two neighborhood-based community gardens with youth programs. Data collection included participant observation and in-depth interviews with adult gardeners and neighbors, youth, and community police officers.

Results suggest that the garden programs provided opportunities for constructive activities, contributions to the community, relationship and interpersonal skill development, informal social control, exploring cognitive and behavioral competence, and improved nutrition. Community gardens promoted developmental assets for involved youth while improving their access to and consumption of healthy foods (Department of Health Behavior & Health Education, University of Michigan School of Public Health, Ann Arbor, MI).
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