Hand-decorated aprons, tacos, salad with fresh chopped vegetables, chocolate dirt cups-complete with gummy worms–and a table set for a group of girls newly crowned as Healthy Queens– elementary school girls who completed a 12-week program focused on teaching the benefits of exercise and good nutrition through Girl Scouts of Central Maryland’s In-School program, Fit & Fierce.
This program resulted from a collaboration between Girl Scouts of Central Maryland and the Lerner Center for Public Health Promotion Department of Health Behavior and Society, Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health. Together a curriculum was developed to help girls living in areas designated as food deserts, understand why physical activity—beyond their 5 minutes of school recess–and eating fresh and locally grown foods is an important part of living a healthy life. On August 3rd the girls shared what they learned with family and friends at Gwynns Falls Elementary School.
The day started with physical activity that included games with hula hoops and a beach ball relay. The girls then decorated aprons they would use while they prepared lunch for their guests. “Why do we wear aprons and gloves?” the girls were asked. “So the germs on our clothes and hands won’t get in the food,” the Healthy Queens responded.
After apron decorating a special guest, dessert chef and author, Amanda Mack, topped the day off with her baking success story. Chef Mack, who grew up in McCullough Gardens, told the girls not to let where they are from determine their goals. “I grew up in the projects,” Chef Mack stated, but “here I am in a cuisine calendar and in a cook book with world famous chefs.” And, she added, I have written my own book, Greens Don’t Grow in Cans, which was inspired by visits to her grandmother’s garden, something she didn’t see a lot of in the city. It was there that she saw that vegetables come from gardens not cans. That realization inspired her to find out more about urban gardening and become involved with community gardens in the city. It also inspired her to educate youth about the benefits of eating fresh foods and vegetables. She told the girls, her work with community gardens and involvement with the B’more Healthy initiative helped her raise money for her bakery, which will open in Cherry Hill in 2020.
Throughout the program healthy living lessons were reinforced; including a visit by Hungry Harvest who gave each girl’s family a healthy vegetable box to take home. By the end of the program and, the end of this special day, the girls had engaged in a variety of physical activity and exercise, learned how gardening can provide your family with healthy foods and, with healthful recipes, they prepared a meal fit for a Queen—Healthy Queens, who were now empowered with skills and knowledge to be fierce and fit.