A healthy diet for kids, healthy bottom line for farmers - WBTV 3 News, Weather, Sports, and Traffic for Charlotte, NC

A healthy diet for kids, healthy bottom line for farmers

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ROWAN COUNTY, NC (WBTV) -

It's an Earth Day emphasis unlike any you've ever seen, with the focus on healthy eating and helping the local farmer. It happened today at Knollwood Elementary School in Rowan County.

Healthy eating for kids? In the land of junk food and obesity, it could be a tough sell, but then there's fifth grader Michael Wyatt whose favorite food may come as a surprise.

"Carrots," Wyatt told WBTV.  "They're good for my eyes."

Michael is one of the students at Knollwood Elementary taking part in a different kind of Earth Day.

"We're taking a different spin on Earth Day," said Principal Shonda Hairston. "Instead of just focusing on the recycling and the environment, we're focusing on healthy living."

But this is really about more than just helping these students eat right, it's also about getting local produce into the school system, and into the minds of consumers.

"We have over 900 farms in Rowan County that average just over 100 acres a piece," said Candice Burgess of Mobile Farm Fresh.  Launched in 2012, Mobile Farm Fresh is a local non profit and mobile farmer's market with an eye towards bringing healthy, local produce to areas that do not have easy access to grocery stores and farmer's markets.

And while farmers grow things that are part of a healthy diet, the emphasis on proper diet also contributes to a healthy bottom line for the county. To back up that point, the Rowan Salisbury School System just committed to a large order of strawberries from a local farmer and will look for more ways to add local produce to the lunch menu.

"One dollar spent in Rowan County results in $4 in income as the money moves around and grows. The money spent outside the county on fruits and vegetables just goes away," Burgess added.

And that ratio would be the same for any county that produces a lot of food. Students and parents took part in activities that included demonstrations and food tasting. At the end of the day it comes down to healthy choices, and the choice to buy locally when possible.

"It feeds us both ways," said Burgess.

And local food, whether grown on the farm or in your backyard or a community garden has health benefits. New research from the University of Utah shows people who participate in community gardening are less likely to be overweight or obese compared to their neighbors who don't garden.

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