The power of food literacy and active participation in the process of growing fresh fruits and vegetables in combating obesity is enabling children at Kingsbridge Heights Community Center (KHCC) in the Bronx to walk on the path to a healthier future. 

With childhood obesity in North America doubling in the last 30 years it is the people living in low-income communities being most affected. This is evident in KHCC's early childhood population, as 18% of participants are classed as obese, over twice the national average.

"This is particularly worrying because we know that if children are obese at such a young age it is more likely than not that they will be obese throughout their childhood and into adulthood." Said Lisa Lindvall, KHCC's board director.

The KHCC Nutrition and Garden Program is working hard to reduce the barriers the community faces when it comes to healthy eating. Over 70% of families in the KHCC community live below the poverty line. They often struggle to afford fruits and vegetables and substitute them for the overwhelming choices of cheap processed and fast food options in the community.  

All of the nutrition and garden activities aim to build knowledge of the food systems process throughout the programs at the center. "If we can build a comprehensive knowledge in our children of healthy eating at all stages of development, then we will be setting them on a trajectory to a healthy life, which they can then effect on their children." Said Lamont Jackson, After School Program Director.

With the levels of obesity rising worldwide we are facing a difficult task that needs to be addressed more stringently at the policy level to ensure universal access to fruits and vegetables and to restrict the influence that the processed and fast food industries have in our communities.

Many factors influence our participants eating habits outside of KHCC, from family members to fast food marketing, but holistic programming that captures children, adults and families gives KHCC the opportunity to shape the eating habits of our community. This is especially true of our youngest participants who spend up to eight hours daily at the center and are provided with two meals, snacks, exercise and garden and nutrition curriculum. This strategy to combat obesity is making an impression on our children that will reduce food related illness and ensure a higher quality of life for our community.

Join us and be part of the movement to improve the health of our community. To learn more about our programming, visit KHCC and join our mailing list for regular updates.

Author: William Littleton | Director of Development and Healthy