Outside the office of Olympia Pediatrics, you’re unlikely to see patients rushing back to their cars after a checkup this summer. They’re more likely to be seen foraging through the raspberries, tomatoes, beans and myriad other fruits and vegetables growing in the four raised beds outside the clinic in Olympia, Washington.
Much of that is due to the work two Bastyr University students put into creating a community garden to encourage children to learn where their fruits and vegetables really come from.
Hannah Tripp and Haley Turner, who both graduated in June from the Bachelor of Science in Nutrition/Didactic Program in Dietetics program, spent their last quarter at Bastyr designing and building the garden as their final project in the Community Nutrition class taught by June Kloubec, PhD.
“This experience was a great way to practically apply the skills and knowledge I have gained over the past two years at Bastyr,” Turner says. “Both the class and project really helped me realize my interest in sustainable, community-focused work, which I know will play a large role in my future career as a dietitian.”
Tripp had worked previously for Olympia Pediatrics as a receptionist, and had watched a smaller version of the garden fail to pique the interest of patients the previous summers.
“Every summer something went wrong and it didn’t really produce much,” she says. “When Dr. Kloubec said we had to do a community project for the class, it rang a bell because I knew how much they needed some help to push that project further.”
The students decided to add two more 4-by-4 beds and to focus on varieties of fruits and vegetables that would grow fast and produce a high volume.
“We wanted things that would get people to use it more and be fun for kids to pick,” Tripp says.
They kept the perennial strawberry and raspberry plants that were already in the older two beds, then planted over 18 additional types of fruits and vegetables including radishes, different types of lettuce, peas, carrots and herbs.
Once everything started coming up, it gained more than the interest of patients when Q13-FOX News reported on the garden:
In addition to increasing the produce in the garden, Tripp and Turner also created a robust educational component. “We thought this would really enhance the link between health in the doctor’s office and what we eat,” Tripp says.
There are Q-and-A signs with fun information about produce throughout the garden, as well as an “herb wheel” with information about the basil, mint, thyme and rosemary growing in the garden.
“It’s fun for kids to learn how herbs can work in food,” Tripp says.
But their education expands beyond the garden itself with the creation of The Children’s Garden blog on the Olympia Pediatrics website.
The June 4 post offers this explanation of the garden:
The goal of the garden is to teach healthy eating habits to children by getting them involved in the growing process. We encourage parents to bring their young ones into the garden to experience their food using all five senses: touch the plants, look at their different colors, smell them, taste them and hear them crunch!
In addition to garden updates, the blog provides Plant Profiles with nutrition information and other facts about the plants growing in the garden, and that information also is available inside the office as part of the clinic’s Healthy Sprouts Newsletter.
Another part of the project’s appeal for Tripp is because of her personal focus on pediatric nutrition.
“Seeing children get really excited makes it feel like it’d be so much easier for them to eat healthy if they were taught those basic building blocks at a young age,” she says.
Bastyr’s focus on those building blocks was one of Tripp’s initial draws to the Department of Nutrition and Exercise Science.
“I have always been interested in nutrition,” she says, “but when I researched Bastyr’s program, I found that its whole foods approach fits right in with how I think nutrition should be and how it should fit in people’s lives.
“I loved every minute of Bastyr.”
Tripp plans to continue her studies this fall in a master’s degree program in nutrition in Maine, where she hopes to continue her focus in pediatrics.
“This project definitely made me even more interested in pediatrics,” she adds. “It’s really rewarding to see kids get excited about eating strawberries.”