Health

Good Nutrition Taking Root in Lincoln Acres

LincolnAcres1

A casual conversation between Alejandra Gonzalez of National City and Lincoln Acres Library branch manager Jose Ocadiz came at just the right time.

Gonzalez had stopped by the library on Wednesday, inquiring about any classes that might be available for her 2-year-old daughter Yarley. Ocadiz had the perfect activity for them.

Thursday afternoon Yarley and her mother joined about 25 other neighborhood kids chopping vegetables and digging in the dirt to learn about nutrition.

The Lincoln Acres Library and the Olivewood Gardens and Learning Center joined forces for the first time to offer “Eat Green, Think Green, Go Green!” –  a series of four hands-on nutrition classes for children.

“This is the perfect activity for my daughter to learn and for me to do an activity with her,” said Gonzalez. “It was a lot of fun and I enjoyed it.

“I learned how to make something that’s healthy and good for her.”

Ocadiz said he reached out to Olivewood after hearing so many great things about nutrition programs at the garden from community residents and he knew it would be a great fit with the library’s summer reading program “Reading is Delicious.”

“This was the perfect tie-in with our reading program,” said Ocadiz. “We’re trying to turn kids on to reading and trying to make it a fun process.”

The children were split into two groups and took turns making the salad in the community room and planting a container garden outside on the patio.

“We wanted people to get a little taste of what we do,” said Diana Bergman, Olivewood Gardens program director. “We know not everyone in the community can make it to the garden and we want them to have this experience.”

The group making the salad learned how to prepare fresh vegetables. Children used plastic knives to chop and cut ears of corn, avocados, grape tomatoes, green onions and limes. Once all the ingredients were ready, they were combined to make a Tomato, Corn and Avocado Salad (see recipe below).

Outside, the children gathered around the table filled with pans of dirt and magnifying glasses. Before they could start their container garden, they got a quick lesson in dirt.

The kids examined the soil finding little stones, sticks and plant parts. There was also something they couldn’t necessarily see.

“There’s poop in there,” said Bergman, explaining the role worms play in plant growth through their natural fertilizer.

The green thumb secret to a healthy plant, according to Bergman, is to have good soil. She also told them that the number one reason a plant dies is from too much water.

The children filled their planters with soil before adding cilantro, green onions and their choice of a jalapeño or tomato plant.

The first class in the series was an introduction to nutrition. Next week the children will learn about healthy alternatives to sugar-sweetened drinks and the last class is about adventurous eating.

“The last class we bring in some unique veggies,” said Bergman. “We want them to try vegetables they might not normally try and see if they will eat them.”

The kids will also learn bug-themed snacks they can make on their own.

“We really want to encourage them to live healthier lifestyles by participating in outdoor activities, healthier cooking and life-long healthy eating habits,” said Ocadiz.

Tomato, Corn and Avocado Salad (serves 4)

Ingredients

2 ears corn (husks and silks removed and tips cut off)

1 pint cherry, grape or pear tomatoes, halved or quartered

1 avocado halved, pitted, peeled and diced

2 scallions thinly sliced

2 tablespoons fresh lime juice

1 tablespoon vegetable oil (such as safflower)

Salt and pepper

Directions

Stand ear of corn in a large, wide bowl. With a sharp knife, carefully slice downward to release the kernels. Discard the cob. Add tomatoes, avocado, scallions, lime juice and oil to the bowl. Season with salt and pepper and toss gently to combine.

Tom Christensen is a communications specialist with the County of San Diego Communications Office. Contact