Getting dirty has healthy benefits
Posted on 09/29/2021
An adult and student plant herbs

Playing in the dirt can be fun at any age. Recently, Orlando Health volunteers modeled this to students at Orange Center Elementary. They learned it can also be beneficial to their health and the environment. 

In a partnership with Orlando Health Arnold Palmer Hospital for Children, students planted seeds for various plants and will  harvest them throughout the school year. With the help of school staff and Orlando Health team members, students learned how to tend to plants like basil, tomatoes, peppers and cilantro to create an appreciation for vegetables and nutritious foods.

“Starting a love for fresh and nutritious foods at an early age can lead to healthy habits that last a lifetime,” said Lainie Fox Ackerman, assistant vice president of Orlando Health External Affairs and Community Benefit. “This is such an exciting partnership that we’re honored to be a part of. The teaching garden gives these students and their families increased access to fruits and vegetables they might not normally have access to while giving them a hands-on experience that teaches them where their food comes from.”

Orange Center ES is located in an area known as a “food desert,” meaning it is often difficult for families to access quality, fresh food. The teaching garden experience is part of an effort to give the children a better understanding of how food is grown and fuels the body. 

“This partnership provides so many opportunities for our children. School gardens bring the classroom outside to teach students how to plant, grow and harvest their own food,” said Dr. Maria Vazquez, deputy superintendent for Orange County Public Schools. “We’ve seen first-hand how lessons like this can help improve academic performance in other subjects inside the classroom.”