Apple Seeds, Inc. provides education and tools to enhance local food systems and support better nutrition for people in Northwest Arkansas.
Since 2003, approximately 38 percent of Arkansas students have been found to be overweight or at risk for overweight each school year (AR Center for Health Improvement). Among children and adolescents, obesity is linked to emotional and social problems, and to serious medical conditions such as type 2 diabetes, hypertension and high cholesterol. As these children move into their 20s and beyond, experts fear an exponential increase in health problems such as heart disease and stroke, and a decline in the quality of their lives.
Apple Seeds is addressing our overweight epidemic by providing students with activities and instruction that encourages healthy eating habits at an early age. By making proper nutrition and healthy eating a fun, participatory experience, our programs help to counter the pressures on young people to consume excess fats and other unhealthy foods
We believe all children deserve good food, healthy activity, and joy.
- To help students and their families make nutritious food choices and form lifelong healthy eating habits.
- To foster a sustainable food system that emphasizes fresh food, good nutrition, stewardship of resources, and local economy.
Apple Seeds, Inc. was created in 2007 to provide education and tools to enhance local food systems and support better nutrition for people in Northwest Arkansas. This region has been known for our numerous organic farms, thriving farmers markets, and strong natural health and wellness community. Yet a sizable number of our citizens still suffer from obesity and nutrition related diseases, while a majority of the food we eat is highly processed and shipped from thousands of miles away. Through our work, we expect to facilitate real behavioral changes in food choices and healthy activities in our community.
The Apples in the Classroomprogram was initiated in 2005 by Ozark Natural Foods and taken over by Apple Seeds in 2007. In the first three years of the program, nutrition lessons tailored to the existing Arkansas educational requirements were taught to over 1500 third and fourth grade students in 65 classrooms in seven elementary schools in the Fayetteville, Bentonville and Elkins School Districts. These lessons included information on different classifications of foods, healthy snacking options, portion control, the food guide pyramid, and the effects of certain foods on our bodies.
From 2008-2010, Apple Seeds partnered with Leverett Elementary School in Fayetteville on a pilot program to work more extensively with one group of students. Over 350 students from pre-K through fifth grade participated in hands-on educational activities and received fresh or dried fruit snacks daily through a grant from the USDA Fresh Fruit & Vegetable Program.
Apple Seeds provided the Leverett students with several field trips to the Fayetteville Farmers’ Market, a local produce farm, a local family garden, and the Arkansas Agricultural Research Farm. On each trip, students had the opportunity to talk to local farmers and researchers, sample fresh produce, and play educational games. Apple Seeds also initiated an after school gardening club at Leverett in 2009. So far, over 70 students have participated in the weekly club, developing their gardening skills and learning about healthy eating through fun, hands-on activities.
The Apples in the Classroom pilot project at Leverett Elementary began to create a culture of healthy eating among students. Sample evaluations in our second year found that:
- Nearly all of the students understood the importance of eating fruit and vegetables regularly
- Two-thirds of the students named specific fruit or vegetables as their favorite snacks
- Approximately 80 percent said they liked snacking on fruit and vegetables more than when the school year began
- 90 percent said they would like to learn more about healthy food
In 2010, we changed our program name to Plant to Plate, formerly known as Apples in the Classroom, to better reflect what our activities strive to accomplish. Today, Apple Seeds partners with the Fayetteville Public School District and several organizations around Fayetteville. As we develop more capacity, we expect to expand our partnerships throughout Northwest Arkansas.
Our Board of Directors
- Mary Thompson, Chair
- Julia Sampson
- Bernice Hembree
- Meredith Suttle
- Erin Sheehan
Natalie is serving Apple Seeds through the AmeriCorps VISTA (Volunteers in Service to America) program.