Have Dreams, a local nonprofit that helps children, teens and young adults with autism improve their abilities to learn, function independently and socialize, recently received a $20,000 grant from Astellas USA Foundation to provide Have Dreams participants the opportunity to cultivate an outdoor vegetable and herb garden. A year-round autism-specific curriculum will help participants increase their healthy eating habits by learning how to plant, maintain and harvest the garden, prepare vegetables and herbs they grow themselves and incorporate these and
other healthy foods into their daily diet.
With this Garden of Goodness Healthful Harvest initiative, Have Dreams and Astellas USA Foundation aim to improve the health and well-being of participants by promoting healthy eating habits and to combat obesity. Childhood and adolescent obesity is a health risk for all youth in the United States, especially individuals with developmental disabilities.
Research from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention suggests that adolescents with autism are at double the risk for obesity compared to teens with other developmental disabilities. Research at Marcus Autism Center and the Development of Pediatrics at Emory University of Medicine shows that children with autism are five times more likely to have feeding problems such as extreme tantrums during meals, severe food selectivity and ritualistic mealtime behaviors.
Last year, Have Dreams launched a healthy eating initiative with a different grant from Astellas USA Foundation, introducing healthy food and recipes into Have Dreams’ Social, Communication and Independent Living Skills programs.
The new Garden of Goodness Healthful Harvest grant will help bring the healthy eating initiative full circle.
Studies show that when kids grow vegetables, they are more likely to eat them. The Garden of Goodness will allow Have Dreams participants the opportunity to plant, grow, identify, harvest and cook vegetables and herbs from garden to table.
Participants will be able to experience a full growing cycle from planting seeds to securing the garden for winter and also learn about the nutritional value of what they are growing.
Once the garden has been established, there is hope to expand it in the future
with a possible Farmer’s Market booth and collaborations with area schools.