"Learning is a treasure that will follow its owner everywhere." -- Chinese Proverb
Some people call gardening backbreaking work. I call it back-building work. What started out as a way to grow your own food is now a way to exercise, too. And as everyone knows, exercise plus eating healthy equals a healthier lifestyle.
By tilling the earth, moving wheelbarrows full of soil, weeding, harvesting, and starting the process over next season, you're building a healthier lifestyle. Not only is it a good workout, the homegrown vegetables help, too.
Helping others live a healthy lifestyle inspired me to join the Alliance for a Healthier Generation. The Alliance works to combat one of the nation's leading health problems -- childhood obesity -- by encouraging healthy lifestyle choices. I'm a part of the Alliance's Youth Advisory Board, a 20-member board made up of kids from across the country working on the issues of childhood obesity.
I wanted kids to understand the connection between gardening and fresh food to help them lead a healthier lifestyle. As my project for the Alliance, I approached a local school about working with students on a garden that gives back to the community. I got to work with third grade, which was the grade I was in when I grew my 40-pound cabbage and became inspired to end hunger one vegetable garden at a time.
The students were fantastic. They taught me that despite the stereotype that screen time is more important to the young generation then being outdoors, they genuinely wanted to be outside to play and work in the garden. They enjoyed eating fruits and vegetables and did not talk about them like they were "icky." They wanted to live a healthier lifestyle, and I intended to show them the path.
I set up weekly meetings to work in the garden, plant seedlings, and play fun games about eating healthier and exercising. The kids loved hearing about Katie's Krops, but they got even more excited when I told them about the garden they would start to help the needy in their community.
Many of the third graders had gardens at home, and they beamed with pride when they talked about them. Others liked talking about their favorite fruits and vegetables. The kids enjoyed showing off their knowledge about gardening. Dozens of hands darted up as I asked them questions.
By the end of the school year, the students had planted a fruitful garden and were full of pride because they knew they were living a healthier lifestyle and helping those in need at the same time.
What made this experience even better occurred only a couple of days ago in the grocery store. As I was in line at the deli counter, a little boy came up to me and said, "Are you Katie?" He had been one of the third grade students I worked with. The boy went over to his mom and said, "I told you it was Katie! She runs Katie's Krops, and she came to our school and planted a garden with us." The mom came over and told me about how that was all her son had talked about -- the project I was doing with him and his fellow classmates. I was very happy and touched that he loved the project.
It just goes to show, the stereotypes aren't all true. Kids across the country do want to be active, do enjoy leading a healthy lifestyle, and do love their vegetables. Sometimes they just need someone to guide the way. From my fellow Alliance Youth Advisory Board members to my Katie's Krops grantees and even First Lady Michelle Obama, we're all working towards the same cause. Together we can make an impact.