Dominican Republic: Nutrition with Kids in the Garden

We all start laughing. Our hands are covered in dirt but the final product was well worth it. We sat down to survey our creations and smile. The bottle gardens of Cajuil fruit look beautiful. With the feeling of satisfaction still lingering, the kids pick up their bottle gardens to take them home. I smile; we actually did this.

My trip to the Dominican Republic began mid May with a small group of students and friends from Texas A&M University to teach teachers about the Junior Master Gardening newest curricula, the Learn Grow Eat Go! Program and build a garden at the community school. Christine Tisone, my professor from the Department of Health and Kinesiology, believed the curricula would be beneficial to the community of La Esquina. Knowing the success of the AGTEC program and how the JMG curriculum has affected countries worldwide, I agreed and began preparing for this past summer over a year ago in August of 2012.

The Learn, Grow, Eat, Go! Program has only been used in the United States, but after talking with the director of the program, Lisa Whittlesey, to get more information my team was concluded this would be beneficial to try due to the nutritional components. The curricula consist of games, stories, recipes for cooking, nutritional videos in Spanish and English and much other information to teach kids about the nutrients of plants we eat from the garden.

However, similar to most international efforts, we were forced to reevaluate our plans several times. We didn’t end up teaching teachers, but fortunately, we were able to accomplish a foundation for the program.

The first month and a half we got to know the community and learn more about foods that were eaten there. We were interested in knowing the amount of fruits and vegetables people ate on a daily basis and where that came from. Unlike America, most of the children ate fruits for snacks. This is mainly because fruits like mangos and cajuil are readily available in their yards. However, vegetables, were less common to find growing outside. Most families bought them on a grocery truck that came every once in a while. This concluded that planting vegetables were essential for the garden at the school.

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