The University of Arizona

College of Agriculture and Life Sciences

Improving Lives, Communities and the Economy

Inspiring Healthy Eating - Obesity Prevention in Kids

Little girl looking at a carrot she just pulled out of the garden.

Inspiring Healthy Eating - Obesity Prevention in Kids

  • 17 percent of children and adolescents ages 2-19 – or 12.5 million – are obese.
  • Financial cost of childhood obesity tips the scales at $3 billion annually.
  • Obesity has doubled in children and tripled in adolescents in the past 30 years.
  • Education programs that help children make healthy choices are important in battling obesity.
  • Tucson Village Farm taught healthy eating habits to 12,897 children and adults in 2012.
  • Six jobs have been directly created by Tucson Village Farm



Tucson Village Farm Inspires Healthy Eating in Kids

Four-year-old Aria Tenuta digs in the dirt at Tucson Village Farm, preparing the earth for the seeds she gently holds in her palm.

She is one of thousands of children who will dig, water, weed, harvest and eat at the working urban farm, built by and for the youth of Pima County.

“We teach young people how to grow and prepare fresh food and empower them to make healthy life choices through the delivery of a seed-to-table curriculum,” said Elizabeth Sparks, 4-H youth development assistant agent for the University of Arizona, College of Agriculture and Life Sciences, Pima County Cooperative Extension.

The program aims to reduce childhood obesity, which costs the United States $3 billion annually.

After she’s done working on the farm, Aria and her mom, Brianna Tenuta, munch on salad harvested in the garden

“I want my kids to know where their food comes from,” Tenuta said. “Even if I don’t have time to grow a garden I wanted them to have that experience. I think it’s important for children to see where real food comes from.”

Tucson Village Farm offers classes, programs and camps for children and families. Teens are trained to be healthy living ambassadors, and take their knowledge back to their classrooms.

In 2012, 12,897 children and adults were taught how to grow and enjoy nutritious foods at the farm. Statistics show that after being exposed to a two-hour class, children are more likely to eat fruits and vegetables, Sparks said.

While low-income, at-risk youth are targeted for the program, “all kids need this,” Sparks said. “We have to make a change in the way we eat.”

Children are exposed to nutrition education in terms they understand – a scoop of lard on bun shows fat content of some meals.

“Poor eating, sugary drinks and a sedentary lifestyle are causing increasing obesity rates and early childhood diseases to skyrocket,” Sparks said. “We have got to turn this around for the sake of our future.”


Impact Stories

These stories provide examples of how University of Arizona College of Agriculture and Life Sciences Cooperative Extension (CALS-CE) translates research-based information to help people solve real, everyday problems and improve the quality of life. They highlight the impact CALS-CE has had on Arizonans.

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