David Mendez

Redondo Beach About Town

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BCHD sows good health in schools

The Beach Cities Health District’s fourth annual Volunteer Day brought together nearly 200 volunteers from 30 organizations, including the Redondo Beach Police Department, Redondo Beach Kiwanis, South Bay Credit Union and many more, to clean, prepare and repair garden beds at schools throughout Redondo and Hermosa last weekend.

The garden beds are part of the LiveWell Kids Program, which has taught Beach Cities students hands-on lessons about how their food is grown, what they can make with those foods and how to take those ideas home. The gardens are overseen by volunteer docents — known as Garden Angels — who tend to the planters throughout the year.

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“The idea of LiveWell Kids was not just to teach kids, but to be teaching parents as well,” said Kerianne Lawson, BCHD’s Chief Programs Officer. “It’s a lifespan perspective, about making time and bringing recipes back so kids can experiment at home.”

When the program started, it hoped to target childhood obesity rates in Redondo Beach schools. At the time, obesity rates were over 20 percent among RBUSD’s kindergarten-through-fifth-grade students.

As of last year, RBUSD’s childhood obesity rates have fallen to 6.4 percent — well under state and national averages.

The LiveWell Kids program, which includes Body-Mass Index measurements of students, is seen as a catalyst for that change.

“It’s not just teaching but practicing,” Lawson said. “Everybody learns about everything at an age-appropriate level.”

During their lessons, students learn about the growth cycles of sunflowers and squash, while putting healthful-eating lessons into practice in salsa-making contests.

But to get to that point, the gardens need to be prepared and reset before the school year. That’s where the volunteers — armed with spades, gloves, and sunscreen — come in.

At Redondo’s Alta Vista Elementary School, BCHD staff-turned-volunteers replaced decaying planter boxes with brand-new boxes, with mesh wire (designed to keep gophers out) built-in.

“This is what I like: having a clearly defined goal,” said BCHD CEO Tom Bakaly, carrying a shovel in his hands and a broad smile — with some potting soil — on his face.

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