Elementary School Surrounded by Food Desert Plants Seeds for Healthier Lives

Orlando, FL (October 14, 2022) – Orange Center Elementary School students spent the day planting herbs and vegetables in their very own teaching garden located on the school’s campus. The students planted seeds for various plants with the help of teachers and Orlando Health team members and will harvest produce as it ripens throughout the school year. The teaching garden, which was sponsored and built by Orlando Health, has been used as a tool to introduce and help develop an appreciation for nutrient-dense fruits and vegetables.

Affectionately referred to as “Plant Day,” the event gives all students from kindergarten through fifth grade, who predominantly live in a food desert, an opportunity to learn how fresh produce develops and is harvested. Basil, tomatoes, peppers and cilantro were among the several plants in this year’s garden. For many students, this is their first in-person experience planting and growing vegetables and herbs they can eventually eat.

“Access to fresh produce is significantly limited for most of these students which makes it even more important to bridge the gap so these children develop lifelong, healthy habits,” said Lainie Fox Ackerman, assistant vice president, Orlando Health external affairs and community benefit. “We know fruits and vegetables play a key role in reducing the risk of diabetes and high blood pressure later in life. The knowledge these students gain through this teaching garden will help them develop healthy habits that last a lifetime.”

Orange Center Elementary is in what is considered a “food desert.” For families in the area, buying affordable or good-quality, fresh food can be difficult for a variety of reasons which include proximity to grocery stores and lower income levels. The teaching garden experience is part of an effort to give the children a better understanding of how food is grown and fuels the body.

“Access to healthy and nutritious food has been proven to give children the brain boost they need to excel in the classroom and beyond,” said Dr. Michael Armbruster, Deputy Superintendent, Orange County Public Schools. “We are excited to continue this partnership and long-term commitment with Orlando Health.”

About Orlando Health

Orlando Health, headquartered in Orlando, Florida, is a not-for-profit healthcare organization with $8 billion of assets under management that serves the southeastern United States.

Founded more than 100 years ago, the healthcare system is recognized around the world for Central Florida’s only pediatric and adult Level One Trauma program as well as the only state-accredited Level Two Adult Trauma Center in the St. Petersburg region. It is the home of the nation’s largest neonatal intensive care unit under one roof, the only system in the southeast to offer open fetal surgery to repair the most severe forms of spina bifida, the site of an Olympic athlete training facility and operator of one of the largest and highest performing clinically integrated networks in the region. Orlando Health has pioneered life-changing medical research and its Graduate Medical Education program hosts more than 350 residents and fellows. The 3,200-bed system includes 10 award-winning hospitals, 9 hospital based ERs, and 7 free-standing emergency rooms; rehabilitation services, cancer and heart institutes, imaging and laboratory services, wound care centers, physician offices for adults and pediatrics, skilled nursing facilities, an in-patient behavioral health facility, home healthcare services in partnership with LHC Group, and urgent care centers in partnership with FastMed Urgent Care. More than 4,200 physicians, representing more than 100 medical specialties and subspecialties have privileges across the Orlando Health system, which employs more than 23,000 team members. In FY21, Orlando Health served more than 160,000 inpatients and 3.6 million outpatients. During that same time period, Orlando Health provided approximately $648 million in total value to the communities it serves in the form of charity care, community benefit programs and services, community building activities and more. Additional information can be found at, or follow us on LinkedIn, Facebook, Instagram and Twitter @orlandohealth.

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