"Everything that is grown at the school is used, made, and fed to the kids," explained Marc Natale, Executive Director of the American Heart Association. "Kids take tours of the public market, come back, and then supplement with things they haven't used before."
Natale says the experience is really eye-opening. Through the garden and 35 corresponding lesson plans, the American Heart Association and Wegmans hope to plant the seeds for a healthy life.
"Here in Rochester, about 39% of kids are overweight or obese, so we certainly want to address that issue before the statistic becomes larger into their teen years," Natale urged. About 200 kids have had a hand at helping out in the garden during the summer program, and the hope is that they'll be able to continue it into the regular school year too.
"I came out here and helped out a little bit with stalking the tomatoes, picking a few green beans that were overripe and picking out the weeds," recalled Freedom School senior, Tyler Drake.
Inside the school, the learning continues with classes that teach about farming techniques such as juicing. "[The students] loved the juicing, especially with the vegetables," affirmed the Freedom School's Cafe Manager, Thando Hannah.
Organizers hope the kids will take home the lessons they learn.
"It's a reminder in the community," says Drake. "If you walk by and see a garden, there are vegetables there you should be eating, so maybe you should go get some a little bit later."
Freedom School freshman, Richard Mitchell, said, "I think it will help with our community; help other people eat better."