'Farm to School' Event at Homestead Hospital's Grow2Heal Garden: A Fresh Experience

More than 50 children enjoyed an interactive farm-to-table experience at Homestead Hospital’s Grow2Heal community garden during a “Grow Your Lunch” field trip.

(VIDEO: Children participate in a hands-on event at Homestead Hospital’s Grow2Heal community garden as a preview of the Florida Farm to Preschool Program, which kicks off this fall.)

The event introduced preschoolers from Homestead Hospital’s Early Learning Center, and third- and fourth-graders from Ocean Studies Charter School located in Tavernier, Fla., to new tastes, sustainable farming and lunch made with fresh produce grown in the hospital’s organic garden.

The experience helped serve as a preview to the Florida Farm to Preschool Program, an extension of the state’s Farm to School Program. The initiatives use “Fresh From Florida” produce to promote health lifestyles to school-age children. Community gardens, such as the one at Homestead Hospital, local farmers and school districts partner to provide nourishing, locally grown fresh fruits and vegetables in school cafeterias.

Thi Squire, manager of the community garden at Homestead Hospital, led several interactive and hands-on activities that encouraged the children to be good tasters and get excited about trying new foods, including:

  • Tasting fresh Florida blueberries
  • Touching and feeling organic plants and vegetables during a tour of Homestead Hospital’s Grow2Heal garden, and
  • Sampling a fruit smoothie freshly-made in a stationary bicycle-powered blender.

Bill Duquette, chief executive officer of Homestead Hospital, read the book “Two Bite Club” to the group. Each child received a copy of the book and a blueberry-themed coloring page. Adding fun and a surprise to the event was a visit from the Miami Heat’s mascot, Burnie. He gave the children high-fives, danced around and took part in some of the nutritional activities.

Representatives from the Florida Department of Children and Families and Florida Department of Agriculture also helped educate the children at the event about the state’s upcoming Farm to Preschool Program. The program’s partners also include the USDA, Florida Department of Health and the Florida Department of Education. Teachers received a “Grow It, Try It, Like It” kit from the USDA, which has garden-themed education materials featuring hands-on planting and nutrition activities that introduce children to the agency’s MyPlate.

Homestead Hospital’s Grow2Heal Community Garden grows fresh produce used to feed and educate the community about healthier living. Developed on hospital-owned vacant land adjacent to the healthcare facility, the organic – and sustainable – garden of fruits, vegetables, herbs, fruit trees and native flowers is harvested to provide better health and wellness choices for the hospital’s patients, visitors, employees and local organizations in need.

Farm to Preschool’s goal is to encourage kids to begin tasting a variety of foods at a young age, particularly fresh fruits and vegetables to create more positive experiences around new foods. The earlier children are exposed to new foods, the more likely they are to continue tasting and develop healthy palates as they age. This initiative supports child nutrition, agriculture education and wellness programs within each agency’s own initiatives.

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With internationally renowned centers of excellence, 12 hospitals, more than 27,000 employees, 4,000 physicians and 200 outpatient centers, urgent care facilities and physician practices spanning across Miami-Dade, Monroe, Broward and Palm Beach counties, Baptist Health is an anchor institution of the South Florida communities we serve.

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