DETROIT—The American Federation of Teachers sponsored a "healthy living through healthy foods" event today in Detroit with community partners at an Urban Farming Inc.'s community garden. The event, which took place the day before the launch of the AFT's national convention, included demonstrations on starting a garden, harvesting vegetables and cooking healthy meals, as well as fitness and children's reading activities.
In addition to Urban Farming, other partners included Gleaners Community Food Bank, No Kid Hungry Michigan, Cooking Matters and First Book, which gave away books to children. Door prizes included copies of first lady Michelle Obama's American Grown: The Story of the White House Kitchen Garden and Gardens Across America.
"Urban farms can turn urban decay into beautiful, bountiful gardens that can provide our neighborhoods with healthy options and feed people in need. Backyard and school gardens also make healthy eating fun by providing opportunities for children to grow their own fruits and vegetables," AFT President Randi Weingarten said at the event, one of many AFT Gives Back activities held during the convention. She also noted the importance of community partners in improving schools and communities. "No one person can transform a community alone. It takes all of us, working together."
Gail Carr, assistant executive director of Urban Farming, said community gardens are open to any family in need of food. "We are eradicating hunger. It's a wonderful opportunity to make a difference by creating an abundance of food," Carr said.
According to a 2010 Forgotten Harvest report, one in five people in metro Detroit—about 800,000 people—live in poverty and face hunger daily. In the city of Detroit, one in two children faces hunger daily. And nationally, 14.8 percent of households were considered "food insecure" between 2008 and 2010, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture.
"As a nation, we've got to get serious about choosing healthy foods and exercising. It's good for the body and the mind," said AFT Executive Vice President Francine Lawrence. "Kids do better in school when they've eaten a healthy breakfast and make other smart food choices during the day, and do some form of physical activity every day."
A 2011 federal report on the obesity epidemic found 19 percent of Detroit high school students were obese, 21 percent did not participate in at least 60 minutes of physical activity on any day, 8 percent did not eat fruit or drink 100 percent fruit juices during the seven days before the survey was taken, and 44 percent watched television three or more hours a day on an average school day.
Lorretta Johnson, the AFT's secretary-treasurer, said AFT members have become leaders in helping kids make healthy choices.
"Our child nutrition workers are working to ensure kids have healthier options at lunch, replacing Tater Tots with carrot sticks, raisins and fresh fruit. Our school nurses talk to students about the dangers of high-fat, high-calorie foods and sugary drinks. And physical education teachers preach the benefits of regular exercise," Johnson said.
The AFT convention opens Friday, July 27, at 9 a.m. at Cobo Center. More than 3,000 AFT members are expected.