A Bronx non-profit organization is working to make the community healthier — from its smallest residents to its oldest. Borough reporter Erin Clarke has the story.
On a sunny afternoon, some kids are enjoying a salad — with vegetables they've been growing and harvesting from a community garden at the Kingsbridge Heights Community Center.
The garden was first planted a decade ago, but over the last three months it has doubled in size, producing even more free vegetables and fruit for many of the families that use the center.
"We really want to make sure we're providing them with those vegetables that they cannot afford," said William Littleton, the center's nutrition and garden program manager.
The garden is also a key part of the center's mission to build a healthier neighborhood, a mission that begins even before a child is born; the non-profit center is prepping pregnant mothers and then visits them after their babies are born.
"They offer a nutrition class, teaching healthy living, diet, eating habits for yourself," said Leena Aja, a client of the center.
"The certified nutrition assistant or the health director will go into the home and talk to the mom about the nutrition of the baby," said Karen Brooks, center's family service supervisor for the Early Childhood Program.
There are also programs that teach children and adults about the importance of healthy foods, as well as how to grow them and cook with them.
"We wanted them to not just only grow the crops, but to be able to harvest and sort of be able to make that connection between what they were doing in the garden and what they were doing when they were sitting at the table dinning," said Lamont Jackson, the after school program director.
The center tries to incorporate ethnic foods into its cooking classes, so participants can prepare meals that are familiar to them, while also learning about the foods of other cultures.
There are also cooking contests to make it all fun, like a Top Chef-style cook-off for teens.
The goal: to nourish the community with information, as well as with food.
"We really try to help develop the entire individual," the center's executive director Margaret Della said.
For more information about the Kingsbridge Heights Community Center, visit khcc-nyc.org