Learn, Grow, Eat and Go! program kicks off at Inez Foster Academy in San Antonio

AgriLife Extension personnel teach students about the nutritional benefits of vegetables at the Learn, Grow, Eat and Go! kickoff at Foster Academy. (Texas A&M AgriLife Communications photo by Paul Schattenberg)

SAN ANTONIO — About 75 third-graders and other students from the Inez Foster Academy recently participated in the Learn, Grow, Eat, and Go! program kickoff at their school.

Learn, Grow, Eat and Go!, or LGEG, is a 10-week youth health and wellness educational series of the International Junior Master Gardener Program of the Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service, part of the Texas A&M University System.

“We really appreciate our partnership with AgriLife Extension, and this program provides a terrific opportunity for our students to learn about earth science, gain some useful life skills and apply some of their classroom learning,” said school principal Sandra Sandoval, who attended the kickoff.

During the kickoff, students prepared two raised garden beds, filled them with soil and planted a variety of vegetable and herb plants, including cucumbers, squash, bell pepper, green beans, tomatoes, rosemary and mint. AgriLife Extension personnel and teachers instructed the students on the correct way to plant the seedlings and gave them direction on how to properly maintain the garden.

Special education teacher Yolanda Lopez shows students how to prepare soil for planting. (Texas A&M AgriLife Communications photo by Paul Schattenberg)

“The goal of the LGEG program is to help kids understand where vegetables come from and how to develop better eating habits and be physically active,” said Angie Gutierrez, AgriLife Extension family and community health agent for Bexar County. “The curriculum was developed to engage kids in gardening, teach them about nutrition and healthy eating, and help them make better food choices.”

Gutierrez said having the garden as a focal point for the program provides an ongoing project that will last long after the initial 10-week program ends.

“Many of these children have never seen, much less worked in a garden,” she said. “Now they get to plant, tend and nurture the garden, then harvest the vegetables and herbs it produces and use those in recipes. They will also get useful lessons in nutrition and healthy eating habits, plus the coach will make sure they get sufficient physical exercise.”

Ruby Zavala, AgriLife Extension youth gardens coordinator for Bexar County said the agency presented three LGEG programs in Bexar County last year, and we will be presenting another three again this year.

“In addition to the program kickoff at Foster, we had another LGEG kickoff recently at Dorie Miller Elementary and another at Lamar Elementary.”

“For some of these students, like the ones in our ACE program who are autistic or intellectually disabled, hands-on activities like this really help them learn,” said special education teacher Yolanda Lopez. “It also gives them a chance to interact with other kids and learn teamwork and  how to behave in a socially acceptable way.”

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AgriLife Extension urban agriculture educator Takisha Durst (left) shows Yolanda Lopez and students some of the materials used in the Learn, Grow, Eat and Go! vegetable garden planting. (Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service photo by Paul Schattenberg)

Special education teacher Edlira Reyna, whose ACE students also participated in the kickoff, said it was important the students saw each step of the planting process.

“Hands-on learning is especially effective for special needs students,” Reyna said. “If you show them something step by step and give them some encouragement and guidance, they can do it. It’s also important they see it takes some work to complete the task.”

Third-grade teacher Sylvia Guerra said she hopes her students will take the lessons learned through the LGEG program and share them with their parents.

“During the program, the students will be learning a lot about gardening and caring for plants as well as learning about nutrition and even making recipes with the vegetables they harvest from their garden,” Guerra said. “These are not only important lessons for them to learn and apply to their own lives, but they are also lessons they can share with the rest of the family so everyone can eat better and be healthier.”

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Writer: Paul Schattenberg, 210-859-5752, paschattenberg@ag.tamu.edu

Contact: Angie Gutierrez, 210-631-0400, aogutierrez@ag.tamu.edu

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