St. John the Evangelist students plant Teaching Garden; learn about healthy choices

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MILWAUKEE -- One in three children in the U.S. is overweight or obese, according to the American Heart Association. But they have a plan to change those numbers in the Milwaukee area -- and it starts with giving kids better access to healthy foods.

American Heart Association Teaching GardensThe students at Greenfield's St. John the Evangelist are hard at work outside the classroom.

"I like digging and getting a little dirty," said Teresa Frelk, 5th grade student.

So do most of the other kids. But Teresa Frelk is the exception, not the rule. She loves her vegetables.

"My dad, he puts a lot of seasonings to make them good, they just make me really healthy," said Frelk.

St. John's school and the American Heart Association (AHA) partnered to plant a Teaching Garden. They want to fight childhood obesity by giving kids access to fresh foods.

"Statistically, zero kids are getting the ideal cardio vascular diet," said Tim Nikolai, American Heart Association Senior Community Health Director.

American Heart Association Teaching Gardens

This is one of four American Heart Association Teaching Gardens in the Milwaukee area, and the AHA is hoping to plant many more because they say, right now, childhood obesity is more of a problem than it has ever been.

"This generation of kids is on track to live a shorter life expectancy than their parents, and that is the first time in over a century that has been the case," said Nikolai.

Eating what they plant is an important part of this process.

"They were just grabbing by the handfuls kale and lettuce and anything they could possibly take in because they are so excited, because it's theirs," said Cheryl Rehm, 3rd grade teacher at St. John the Evangelist.

American Heart Association Teaching Gardens

A diet full of greens, for stronger young hearts.

"It helps me be healthy to get in shape for sports," said Frelk.

"We can go a long ways to giving kids some extra years to the end of their life," said Nikolai.

The fruits and veggies will be cared for all summer long. St. John the Evangelist School partnered with Clement Manor, a retirement community down the street, to help the students with their gardening responsibilities.

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