Sprouts set for new seasonPublished 5:41am Sunday, May 12, 2013
A children’s garden is continuing to grow as it sprouts into its third year at Austin’s Hy-Vee.
The new season of Sprouts: Get Out and Grow kicks off with a planting event from 3:30 to 6 p.m. Wednesday in the garden on the lawn of Hy-Vee. A rainout day has been set for May 22.
The planting event will be a free, interactive event for children ages 5 to 11 and their families to learn to grow a garden by helping the Sprouts plant the garden at Hy-Vee for the season. Participants will also learn how to ready a garden for planting and how to compost.
“It’s an open house type of event,” said Hy-Vee dietitian and Sprouts founder Jen Haugen.
The nine-week Sprouts program starts June 12.
The program exposes children to gardening and healthy home-grown foods to expand their palates and improve their eating habits, which organizers hope will promote a lifetime of healthier eating habits. When the children grow, pick and make their own food, Haugen has said they’re much more likely to taste it.
Sprouts debuted at Austin’s Hy-Vee in 2011. This year, about 150 children from the YMCA, Kids Corner and field trips from the Salvation Army summer program will attend Sprouts.
Each week, children take produce and recipes from Sprouts home to teach their parents what they’ve learned, which Haugen said helps the lessons sink in.
“It just really empowers the kids and gives them a sense of confidence they might not otherwise have,” she said.
That also helps the children take ownership in the garden, which Haugen is important.
The children shared their opinions in surveys last year, and Haugen said the children will guide the direction of the garden this year.
“It’s also transitioned to making it more about what the kids want,” Haugen said.
If the children take more ownership and are excited by what they grow in the garden, Haugen said it will contribute to a deeper learning and understanding of healthy eating.
Children expressed interest in featuring more fruits and flowers in the garden, so Sprouts will plant melons, strawberries and more flowers.
Haugen plans to plant more herbs in the garden, and she’ll again grow Burpee boost produce, a line that boasts significantly more antioxidants.
This year, Hy-Vee floral manager Aimee Whiteaker will help give lessons on composting, how to grow strong plants, beneficial insects, and she’ll perform soil analyses on the garden.
While children may have a bit more say, Haugen and other leaders will still pass along messages of healthy eating to the children. One such lesson encourages children to snack on healthy foods, like whole grains, berries and high protein foods instead of soda and a bag of chips. Haugen said something like a an apple with peanut butter is a better snack because it has more nutrients.
Sprouts will again partner with The Hormel Institute to teach children about fruits and vegetables known to be cancer-fighters.
Last year, research scientists and officials from the Hormel Institute attended Sprouts events to help teach students. But this year, Sprouts will also tour the Hormel Institute for one of their nine weeks.
“We’re trying to bring it more full circle to the kids, so they can really understand why they should eat healthy,” Haugen said.
A new partnership will also offer more teaching tools, as Sprouts will work with the American Institute of Cancer Research, as she’ll be able to use the American Institute of Cancer Research’s curriculum to talk about how to shop for cancer-healthy foods.
Haugen said the partnership opens up a wealth of knowledge and research.
“It’s just kind of like bringing more experts in,” Haugen said.
Another partner will be the Mower County Dairy Association, which will have representatives at the planting party, so students can eat things like fruit and yogurt parfait.
“From the first year until now, I think we’re incorporating a lot more community entities,” she said.
Haugen said partnerships is a way to beef up their curriculum even more. She said the garden would not be as successful without the strong community support it’s received from groups, such as the Institute, the school district and the YMCA. She’d like to continue adding in more community partners, like officials from the medical center.
After Sprouts debuted, corporate leaders at Hy-Vee took note and took expanded Haugen’s program to be offered at about 40 Hy-Vee stores in eight states.
This year more stores came on board to offer programs similar to Sprouts, though Haugen did not have an exact number, and most will follow Haugen’s example by using her past curriculums.
“Our store is still kind of leading the way,” she sad.
On Aug. 21, the Sprouts Cropped Competition will return. The competition partners children with a chef and an Institute research to cook a meal using ingredients from the garden especially cancer-fighting fruits and vegetables.
“The kids had a blast with that,” she said.
A blossoming blog:
Haugen will offer parents a more direct link into what their children are doing at Sprouts, as she’ll start a blog this year to share photos, lessons and recipes each week from Sprouts. The blog can be found at www.jenhaugenrd.wordpress.com.