Until this summer, Javiar Emory-Turner had never seen a tomato that wasn’t red. At Camp FRESH, the 16-year-old Wilmington youth is not only tasting tomatoes that are yellow, green and orange, he is helping to grow and sell the produce.
Even more important, Javiar is taking the lessons he is learning about eating healthy home to his family and neighbors, encouraging them to eat five servings of fruits and vegetables each and every day.
“Before, I only ate fruits and vegetables about once a week,” he said. “Now, I’m trying new foods that are healthy. I’m cutting back on sugar. I’m getting exercise.”
Started by Christiana Care, Camp FRESH is a nine-week program for 48 young people ages 13-18 from Wilmington, New Castle and Newark, Del. The corner stores in their communities carry few fresh fruits and vegetables, and getting to larger markets with more food choices is sometimes difficult. These young gardeners from city neighborhoods till the soil at Wilmington Urban Farm, a verdant plot bursting with broccoli and bok choy, carrots and cabbage, zucchini and zinnias. By growing and eating healthy produce, the teens grow a healthy respect and appreciation for the value of nutrition, and they model their new respect for nutrition to others in the community, who also improve their diets-and, ultimately, their overall well being.
Christiana Care launched Camp FRESH in 2006 as part of the health system’s efforts to build an awareness of the value of nutrition, make a dent in obesity and improve the quality of life for these participants.
Two days a week, the teens sell produce at two stands in urban neighborhoods, one at the farm on East 12th Street and the other at Wilmington Hospital. On the other days, the youths gather at the Eugene du Pont Preventive Medicine and Rehabilitation Institute, where they make healthy dishes such as Asian coleslaw, made with Ramen noodles, cabbage and other accessible ingredients.
Campers were hesitant to taste when a bowl of edamame-baby soybeans popular in Japan-was passed around the room.
“Go ahead and try it,” said Christopher Moore, Christiana Care healthy lifestyle coordinator. “Just squeeze the pod, and the beans pop right out.”
About half the campers enjoyed the edamame. As for other healthy dishes, Hilda Hernandez, 16, feels good about trying hummus made from chick peas and red peppers.
“I thought it looked funny,” she said. “But learning to eat things that are good for you is important if you want to stay healthy.”
Already, Hilda has lost two pounds. She is walking more instead of taking the bus.
After lunch, she and the other campers got a rousing workout with Zumba, a Latin-inspired fitness regimen that harnesses the energy of music.
“Zumba is fun and makes me want to keep exercising,” said Taylor Ferguson, 15, who has lost four pounds. “Now, I’m doing sit-ups and push-ups at home.”
In addition to learning about nutrition and weight management, the teens talk about sex education, drug and alcohol abuse, strategies for being good ambassadors in the community and planning for the future.
Photo gallery: Camp FRESH 2010
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