On Tuesday afternoon, Indiana Pacers guard Joe Young, Indiana Fever center Natalie Achonwa and former Fever star and current Director of Player Programs Tamika Catchings teamed up with local non-profit Kitchen Community and visited students at Thomas Gregg IPS #15 in downtown Indianapolis to demonstrate the importance of healthy eating and nutrition.
Kitchen Community builds Learning Gardens at schools around the city, which serve as an outdoor classroom to teach students about how to grow food, as well as the benefits of eating fruits and vegetables.
“The mission of the Kitchen Community is to connect kids to real food, to teach them where their food comes from and empower them to make healthy choices,” Regional Director of Kitchen Community Theresa Vernon said. “Childhood diabetes and obesity are on the rise and it’s because people are moving so far away from healthy, real food.”
The organization has found that people who grow their own food are more likely to eat it, leading to better health, so Young, Achonwa and Catchings got their hands dirty and helped the students plant a variety of fruits and vegetables in their newly-established Learning Garden. They also discussed healthy eating habits, as well as why they try to eat well on a daily basis.
“Just trying to teach them the value of vegetables, the value of fruit, how it energizes you, how it provides you with a healthy lifestyle,” Achonwa said of what she wanted to relate to the youngsters.
“Given what I do for a living, that I’m and athlete and that eating healthy and being healthy is a part of my job, I think it just gives them extra motivation and incentive that if this is something that’s part of a professional athlete’s life, maybe it should be important to me too.”
Young, who admitted he’s tried his hand at gardening before, wanted the students to understand how eating right today can pay off in the future.
“It’s great to get involved with kids, especially when they’re young at this age,” Young said. “It’s for the long run. You just don’t want to eat for your body right now. It’s all about how you want to live in 50 years or 60 years.”
School administration was pleased the players came out to support the students and the school’s initiative.
“Any time you can bring in local celebrities and sports figures, the kids get extra excited,” Thomas Gregg Principal Ross Pippin said. “One, it was exciting to see this being built all week, but to have special guests from the Pacers and the Fever come, it just makes the day all that more special.”
Vernon agreed and believes partnering with organizations like PS&E only strengthens the Indianapolis area.
“Because the Kitchen Community just launched in Indianapolis in November, we like Indianapolis organizations to show that they embrace what we’re doing, that they believe in what we’re doing and they believe in the importance and the impact a school garden has on our kids, our youth, our city, our community.”
“Again, having the Pacers and the Fever players out here, it creates community, which is what we’re all about. I think it’s just fantastic that they’re out here.”
With the Learning Garden now in place and the seeds planted, it’s up to the students and faculty to take care of it, but you can bet they’ll be up to the task, thanks in part to Achonwa, Catchings and Young.