UA Little Rock and Apple Seeds teach youth essentials of nutrition

June 17-23, 2024

By Angelita Faller


In an inspiring collaboration that focuses on community engagement, the University of Arkansas at Little Rock has joined forces with Apple Seeds, a nonprofit organization with a mission to inspire healthy living through garden-based education, to provide invaluable hands-on experience for its students.


 Through this partnership, students from UA Little Rock’s Health Education and Promotion program are interning at Apple Seeds to help teach school children the essentials of nutrition, fostering healthy habits, and empowering them with the culinary skills to prepare nutritious foods.


 “The partnership started in my Community Health Agency course,” said Dr. Janea Snyder, associate professor of health education and promotion at UA Little Rock. “Students completed 20 hours of community service with Apple Seeds, and it was a very positive experience for the students and the organization. We established a Memorandum of Understanding with Apple Seeds to provide our students with a health education internship opportunity that aligns with our degree program emphasis while also supporting our desire to serve and give back to the community. This partnership provides a wonderful internship experience for our UA Little Rock health education students, provides Apple Seeds with additional support to help serve the community, and, most importantly, educates our youth about gardening and healthy nutrition.”


For more than 15 years, Apple Seeds has been creating programs in northwest Arkansas that educate and excite young students about healthy food. Arkansas consistently ranks in the top five states in the nation for diet-related disease and childhood food insecurity. The nonprofit expanded to central Arkansas and began offering programming in Pulaski County for the first time during the 2023-24 school year, currently serving eight schools in the area.


 “We want to excite kids to be in the garden, learn where their food comes from, learn how to make healthy food, and have an experience that gets them to enjoy vegetables and want to include them in their diet,” said Shanleigh Powell, program manager for central Arkansas for Apple Seeds. “We just completed our first year in central Arkansas, which we are very excited about. We’ve seen more than 2,200 students during our first school year, and we are hoping to increase the number of schools we get to see next year to further spread the excitement of healthy eating in Arkansas.”


 During the spring semester, three UA Little Rock students served as interns through May, working 200 hours during the semester. Their duties include educating students in Kindergarten through fifth grade on nutrition, healthy eating, and gardening. The interns assisted Powell with lessons, cooking demonstrations, and tours of the Oak Forest Community Garden, a 1.2-acre organic-focused community garden in Little Rock.


 “It’s been really awesome having the interns take on leadership roles in some of the classes and watching them bring their enthusiasm to interacting with the students,” Powell said. “We love partnering with UA Little Rock and would love to have other students partner with us. It’s been an awesome first year being able to see the students grow. The interns were an integral part of leading the cooking classes. The students are learning life skills of how to chop vegetables, read a recipe, and incorporate reading, writing, and math skills into the lessons.”


Some of the healthy recipes the students make, which differ for every grade, include garden salsa, kale chips, and groovy green smoothies.


 “I enjoyed being a hand-on intern, interacting with students and learning new recipes,” said Natalie Amos, a senior health education and promotion major. “It’s also great to see what people do with my degree in the real world. I’m currently looking for a new career, and I can’t wait to jump right in. Through this internship, I’ve learned how to multitask, problem solve, and how to work with kids and keep them entertained. It’s been a great experience.”


 During trips to the Oak Forest Community Garden, students tour the gardens, harvest and wash vegetables, and learn how to plant seeds.


 “Our program focuses on increasing all the opportunities students have with vegetables,” Powell said. “Having all those touch points creates an increased willingness to try vegetables. When we are making recipes, 98 percent of students will try the recipe after having done all those steps to prepare the recipe, and a lot of them end up liking it. We increase their exposure and willingness to try new vegetables. With our third graders, 77 percent of them were willing to eat kale again after making a recipe with kale in school, which was awesome.”


 Sam Pickard, a senior health education and promotion major with a minor in sports management from Jacksonville, described her favorite part of the internship as getting to see the excitement on the kids’ faces as they cook and learn about nutrition at school and the garden.


 “I learned during this internship experience that there are many opportunities within health education like Apple Seeds that make a difference within our community and to be a part of this experience was nothing but amazing,” Pickard said. “Apple Seeds was such a great experience. If anyone is looking for an internship opportunity, this is the place to go.”


During her internship, Nataliya Sain, a May 2024 graduate of the Health Education and Promotion program from Little Rock, enjoyed working with the Cooking in the Schools program and the Farm Lab program.


“My favorite part of the internship was working with children and seeing their faces light up during the lesson,” Sain said. “It felt great to know that I was contributing to the minds of the youth through nutrition in a positive way.”


Sain’s experience with Apple Seeds helped her gain leadership skills and helped her family learn important information about nutrition and healthy eating.


 “The most valuable thing I learned in my internship was how to be a leader,” Sain said. “This internship gave me confidence that I never had before. It taught me how to keep going when challenges arise that we have no control over and to also keep a positive attitude. Apple Seeds has helped me be able to provide myself and my family with better education on nutrition so much that my mom is thinking about starting her own garden within the next few years. I would like to say thank you to Shanleigh for all the help and support she has provided me with. The tools she has shown me will always stay with me as I continue my own journey in life, both personally and professionally. The memories I’ve created at Apple Seeds will always be cherished.”  


Photo Captions:


1. Shanleigh Powell, program manager for central Arkansas for Apple Seeds, shows a group of kindergarteners how to harvest vegetables from a community garden. Photos by Ben Krain


2. UA Little Rock interns for the nonprofit organization Apple Seeds lead a group of kindergarten students from Baseline Academy for a tour of Oak Forest Community Garden in Little Rock. Photo by Ben Krain


  • 1.
  • 2.