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Stanford researcher fights obesity out on the farm

A Stanford nutrition researcher is spending time outside the lab and in the agricultural fields to promote something he calls "stealth nutrition" - making it so fun for kids to eat fresh vegetables that they don't even realize they're eating healthy foods.

Apparently just telling kids to eat more vegetables because they're good for you doesn't work.

I spent a morning recently at Full Circle Farm youth summer camp in Sunnyvale, Calif., which has partnered with Stanford in its efforts to promote health and nutrition in kids by encouraging  a connection with agriculture though summer fun. My article in Inside Stanford Medicine today describes just how much fun the kids have:

"Yeah, I like farm camp," said Tobias Proulx, 7, nodding his head. "I like to water vegetables. The corn today was very sweet." He’ll even occasionally eat some jicama when he has the time. Then he hopped up and down on one foot and ran off to help make tortillas.

The 11-acre farm smack in the middle of Silicon Valley is a new experience for a lot of kids who sometimes can't even recognize a tomato or have no idea that carrots grew under the earth. Christopher Gardner, PhD, an associate professor of medicine who has spent much of his career in the lab studying the nutritional effects of various foods, describes in the article how getting out into the community is actually the best way to fight the obesity epidemic:

By making kids more connected to the food, like this little girl walking around waving around the kale leaf, they learn about where food comes from, they learn about the environment. As a nutrition scientist, what I do doesn’t necessarily help with this. Research like I’ve done on how garlic helps or hurts your cholesterol doesn’t help. Getting out into the community and changing behavior, that’s what works.

And, evidently, it’s working. At least the kids are eating more veggies:

 'We hear from parents all the time who say, 'Oh my gosh, all my kid would ever eat was peanut butter!'" said Wolfram Alderson, executive director of Full Circle Farms. "Now they’re eating kale, cauliflower, broccoli. The kids bring the fresh produce home, we give them bags of it, and parents are encouraged to cook with it. What they grow ends up in their dinner salad."

Previously: Stanford expert discusses motivating Americans to make better nutritional choices, ‘The Very Hungry Caterpillar’ to help kids eat healthier and Persuading kids to make healthier choices in the lunchroom
Photo by Norbert von der Groeben

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