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posted: 8/8/2013 1:31 PM

Good Samaritan garden has kids excited about veggies

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By Lisa Parro
Advocate Good Samaritan Hospital

A new garden at the Good Samaritan Health and Wellness Center has kids excited about the unthinkable: vegetables.

The garden program, started in early June by Kids Korner Supervisor Jenylle Rys, promotes healthy eating while teaching kids about the planting and harvesting of their food.

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Located in front of the Wellness Center, 3551 Highland Ave., Downers Grove, the garden is filled with cucumbers, cherry tomatoes, peppers, basil, parsley, and marigolds to keep away deer.

Kids who attend Kids Korner, the Wellness Center's child-care program, can plant, water, pick and bring home the fresh produce to enjoy with their families. So far, kids have plucked freshly sprouted green peppers for a taste test and brought home ripe cucumbers.

"Every time the kids come, there's something new for them to see, such as a tomato turning from green to red," Rys said. "Most of the kids are open to tasting, or at least smelling, all the vegetables."

Rys is working with Advocate Good Samaritan Hospital dietitian Jeannine Pfau to create fun and healthy recipes that use the garden vegetables the kids bring home.

They also are working to create lectures on healthy eating, which is not always the easiest task for busy families and picky eaters.

Pfau's recipes, such as "Melty Monsters," are easy for kids to make and packed with nutritious ingredients such as cherry tomatoes, green peppers and basil leaves.

As the garden grows, Rys hopes to extend the program's purpose and use it as an opportunity to build a partnership between kids and senior citizens.

"It's my hope to turn it into an intergenerational program and get the seniors to interact with kids," Rys said.

The garden has only just begun but already has proved to be a beneficial addition to the Wellness Center community.

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