CSUN's Champions for Change program helps parents, kids learn to garden

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CSUN's Champions for Change program helps parents and kids learn to garden at school through a grant from the L.A. Department of Health.

It's a labor of love at Christopher Columbus Middle School in Canoga Park where a garden class takes place with plenty of community support.

With a grant from the Los Angeles Department of Public Health, CSUN has partnered with the Institute of Community Health and Well Being and Neighborhood Partners in Action to develop the Champions for Change program.

It all takes place in Canoga Park and the surrounding San Fernando area.

"We love the parent center because it motivates us with food for our health and everything," said parent Blanca Garcia of Canoga Park.

"Because of the Champions for Change program we have 13 gardens that have been developed over the last two years in the community," said Dr. Annette Besnilian, executive director of the nutrition program at CSUN.

Besnilian says it has been helpful in teaching both parents and children how to eat more healthfully in order to fight the current obesity epidemic.

Teacher Joann Murray says the program is a student elective, but the kids are excited about growing and they are harvesting quite a bit.

"Lettuce, tomatoes and carrots and radishes and all kinds of different herbs. It's basically a fully functioning garden that the parents and the community shares with us," said Murray.

Champions for Change's Vidy Ortiz says the parents and kids each have their own set of boxes in which to grow their favorite plant foods.

Ortiz says it will take about five weeks to two months for these plants to grow, but after that it's up to the parents to use what they've harvested.

"Parents have adopted a bed so they have the option of taking home, or once the classes are done we do a food demonstration with them and then we tell them about the vitamins and nutrients that of each of these vegetables have," said Ortiz.

They take pride in putting together community meals with their bounty.

"We like to do a salad party. We're trying to promote a healthy lunch in the school as well, so the kids get to try this as well in the classroom," said Ortiz.
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