The U.S. Department of Agriculture is spending a quarter of a million dollars on an effort to boost the self-esteem of teenagers by teaching them how to garden.
Southern University in Baton Rouge, La., received the funding earlier this year in an attempt to "eradicate food deserts" and hold fitness rallies at the end of the school year to "combat obesity since kids tend to overeat during the summertime."
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"The Eradicating Food Deserts in Neighborhoods through the Development of School Gardens project seeks to successfully educate local community people and students on the importance of growing their own produce," a grant for the project states.
The project is developing a "Community Garden Curriculum" for teens aged 13 to 17, training them to become "Youth Master Gardeners." The goal of the study is to use children to "change the mindset" of their parents.
"The implementation of this grant desires to change the mindset of families hoping individuals realize the cost efficiency associated with growing their own fresh produce," the grant states. "The overarching objective is to utilize inexpensive gardening techniques that youth can take home and share with their family and others in their community."
Southern University received $245,331 from taxpayers for the project. The project will continue through March 2021.
Specific objectives of the project include increasing "nutritional awareness," teaching "sustainable gardening," and increasing "self-esteem and environmental stewardship among school age children."
"It is necessary to ‘develop youth' from food desert areas because the resources are scarce and this can significantly impact behavior because they usually compare themselves to youth from more established or wealthier areas," according to the grant.
The project also involves the development of an "Annual Fitness Rally," which will be "held in May just before the end of school to combat obesity since kids tend to overeat during the summertime."
The university is partnering with a local YMCA for the exercise rallies, which also has a goal of "increasing youth self-esteem."