Since 2010, Noyes Memorial Hospital has planted vegetable gardens at 13 different childcare locations with their "Kids Dig Dirt" program, an initiative that's part of the hospital's work with the county and NYS Prevention Agenda to reduce obesity in children and adults. The objective is to have gardens in each of the 16 towns in the county.
The two main goals of the initiative are to raise awareness of the importance of eating vegetables as snacks and part of lunch and to educate the parents of these children about the importance of including fresh vegetables in families' diets. Childcare staff, parents, and children participate in building the gardens from start to finish, including planning, planting, weeding, harvesting, and preparing fruits and vegetables for snacks and lunches.
Parents reported a 50% increase in the percentage of children who eat vegetables they wouldn't have eaten before. Childcare providers offer fresh vegetables from the gardens at lunch, and they've reported a 33% increase in the number of children who will readily eat a new vegetable. "Kids Dig Dirt" reports that their initiative inspired another hospital in New York State to establish a similar program.