Health Trust working to teach kids early about healthy eating

SAN JOSE, Calif.

A garden can be a fun place for a two or three year old but a group of children at one South Bay garden were there to learn about how food is grown. The goal is to improve their health and the community's.

"The more they're exposed to gardens and how food is produced, we're fairly certain it'll increase the likelihood that they'll ask for those choices and they'll make those choices, too," Health Trust Vice President for Programs Paul Hepfer said.

The Health Trust, a charitable foundation, has committed $30 million to programs like the garden one in Santa Clara County. It is a community facing a higher rate of diabetes in the Hispanic population and of cancer among some Asian groups.

"We need to increase the likelihood that families will have the chance to purchase fresh fruits and vegetables, to increase the likelihood that vegetables and fruits will be part of a meal instead of fast food out of a bag," Hepfer said.

Broccoli harvested this morning made its way to Monica Hernandez's kitchen for her daughter Luna's lunch. Luna insists on having the freshly picked vegetables right away. Mom thinks it's a positive sign that even a 21-month-old is getting the message.

One of Hernandez's concerns is the easy access to fast food.

"Fast food is on every corner and they make it easy because of drive-thru and for the vegetables, you have to go to the store and make it a little more difficult," she said.

Eating right is only one initiative. The Health Trust, through its family resource centers, is addressing a related need -- exercise.

Dulce Rivera says Zumba classes help her to release stress. But more importantly, they helped her to lose 60 pounds.

"We really believe that a family with children as young as 2 or 3 years old are leading these very active lifestyles and making physical activity a part of their life that their children will just naturally grow up that way, too," Health Trust Family Resource Center spokesperson Charlene Moore said.

Experts say it may take a generation to close the health gap -- to change lifestyles and eating habits. By starting young, this could be that generation that not only sees better health, but also serves as advocates for healthy living for future generations.

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