Close

Member Secure Log In

Please sign in using the form below
Close

Provider Secure Log In

Please sign in using the form below
Monthly Health Topics

Harvesting More Than Just Veggies in Teaching Gardens

By George Hulse, Vice President of External Affairs, Healthfirst
The coming of summer brings many seasonal pleasures—going to the park, taking a swim in the local pool, maybe even doing a little yardwork. It’s exciting to see so many community gardens sprouting in New York City, and research shows that the nurturing of plants has a positive effect on attitudes toward health and nutrition, on students’ performance in school, and on community cohesiveness. I think this urban gardening explosion can help us turn the tide of childhood obesity, which has tripled over the last 30 years, according to the Centers for Disease Control.
The American Heart Association (AHA) has an amazing program called Teaching Gardens. This program has been implemented in elementary schools in 30 states and has taught approximately 84,000 first- through fifth-graders across the country how to plant seeds in gardens, nurture growing plants, and harvest produce. It also teaches them the value of heart-healthy eating. The program provides garden-themed lessons that include nutrition, math, science, and other subjects. The goal is to get students excited about gardening and to incorporate healthy eating habits in their daily lives from an early age.
To help curb childhood obesity, Healthfirst has partnered with the AHA to sponsor several teaching gardens throughout New Jersey and New York City, including one at PS 155 in South Ozone Park, Queens, and another at PS 55 in the Claremont neighborhood of the Bronx. We have two new gardens sprouting up at PS 95 in Jamaica, Queens and one at PS 323 in Brownsville, Brooklyn.
If you’re not near an AHA Teaching Garden, why not try creating a garden of your own? You can grow your own vegetables and herbs, and you’d be surprised at how many vegetables you can grow in a small yard or window box. Seeds are cheap. All you need is a sunny window and some water.
Tomatoes are good for novice planters to grow, and there are tons of different varieties you can grow—little cherry tomatoes, plum tomatoes, or big beefsteak tomatoes. I also recommend growing herbs. Easy herbs to grow are rosemary, parsley, cilantro, and thyme. You can benefit from the antioxidants as well as from the flavor. For a healthier option, you can throw fresh herbs into meals to substitute for sugar or salt.
If you’re still looking for more opportunities to get your hands dirty, our local community gardens in and around the city need volunteers to help plant new produce and to clean up. Check out volunteer opportunities at www.grownyc.org/volunteer.
George Hulse is Vice President of External Affairs at Healthfirst. For more tips on leading a healthier lifestyle, visit the Healthfirst website at www.healthfirst.org

Medicaid Managed
Care and Child Health Plus

1-866-463-6743
Monday - Friday, 8am to 6pm

TTY English: 1-888-542-3821
TTY Español: 1-888-867-4132
FIDA Participant Services
1-855-675-7630

TTY English: 711
Monday - Sunday, 8am to 8pm
Become a Medicare
Plan Member

1-877-237-1303
Monday - Sunday, 8am to 8pm

TTY English: 1-888-542-3821
TTY Español: 1-888-867-4132
The Essential Plan
and Leaf Plans

1-888-250-2220
Monday - Friday, 8am to 8pm
Total Plan and
Pro Plan Members

1-855-789-3668

TTY English: 1-855-779-1033
Monday - Friday, 8am to 6pm
Employer Services
1-855-949-3668
Monday - Friday, 9am to 5pm
Broker Services
1-855-456-3668
Monday - Friday, 9am to 5pm
Current Medicare
Plan Members

1-888-260-1010
Monday - Sunday, 8am to 8pm

TTY English: 1-888-542-3821
TTY Español: 1-888-867-4132
Senior Health Partners
1-866-585-9280
Monday - Friday, 8am to 8pm
Saturday, 10am to 6:30pm

TTY English: 1-888-542-3821
TTY Español: 1-888-867-4132
Personal Wellness Plan
1-855-659-5971

TTY English: 1-888-542-3821
7 days a week, 24 hours a day
We can call you