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Friday, September 26, 2014

Harvesting the knowledge of food security

Andrea Klassen
Andrea Klassen, Alberta Health Services

Harvest is here. With our busy lives we sometimes forget we live in the heart of an agriculturally rich community. But if we take a moment and look around, it isn’t hard to spot crops being harvested at every turn. Farmers are working hard to get crops off the fields and on to our plates. But not everyone is fortunate enough to have access to nutritious, fresh options when it comes to food choices.

Creating an environment of learning around agriculture is vital to growing food security within our communities. If “food security” is a new term to you, Health Canada describes it as existing “when all people, at all times, have physical and economic access to sufficient, safe and nutritious food to meet their dietary needs and food preferences for an active and healthy life."

Harvesting the knowledge of food security is equally important for children and adults alike. But if you don’t have direct access to a farm, it’s often hard to learn about agriculture and how it provides and sustains our healthy lifestyles. Often, we get quick glimpses of agriculture in our communities. Farmers’ markets across Southern Alberta were in full swing all spring, summer and fall. You can also produce your own food—on a smaller scale. Gardening is an excellent way to learn about agriculture and food sustainability, while also growing your own healthy, nutritious food.

A new program will soon be showcased in Southern Alberta Schools called Little Green Thumbs. It’s an indoor gardening program that gives elementary and high school students the opportunity to become food producers in their own classroom. They can learn about gardening and growing food in this hands-on education program. The program will help young people learn to value their health and the health of their environment and communities. Little Green Thumbs prides itself in knowing that students actively co-operate in caring for their garden. They also learn about nutrition, environmental stewardship, sustainable food systems and community interdependence.

The Little Green Thumbs program is sponsored by Ag for Life, a group of dedicated individuals who deliver educational programming that helps to build a genuine understanding and appreciation of the impact agriculture has on lives of all Albertans. The program will be administered by the Community Food Connections Association in Medicine Hat and supported by Alberta Health Services. For more information, visit littlegreenthumbs.org

Andrea Klassen is a Health Promotion Facilitator with Alberta Health Services Population Health Promotion Program. She can be contacted at andrea.klassen@albertahealthservices.ca

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