Healthy Food = Healthy Lives

DSC9015 copy 200x300 Healthy Food = Healthy LivesThis spring and summer our students have had an amazing opportunity to work in our new garden, which was built last fall.  We have been able to see one growing season all the way through from planting to harvest.  We have grown tomatoes, peppers, eggplant, okra, herbs, squash, and more.  The flowers have been beautifully arranged to provide even more color in our garden and throughout campus.  Students have had a part in each step of the process.   Daily, the kitchen proudly uses the produce to create some nutritious and creative dishes.

Not only do we enjoy the delicious and beautiful provisions of the garden, but we also are very aware of the therapeutic benefits, as gardens can be an amazing avenue of healing.  Here are some of the therapeutic aspects of our garden:

The ability to take ownership

Gardens require ownership and need careful tending.  Teens we work with often struggle with feelings of loneliness, not belonging and a lack of purpose.  As seeds are planted and life is created, students quickly take on the role of caretakers and get to experience the responsibility, even if in a small way, of maintaining life.  Pulling weeds in an effort to protect and nurture life starts to become a requirement for success and provides immediate feedback as to how well they are doing.  And with the harvest, teens experience fantastic tasting food and the satisfaction of a completed task.

Empowerment to make decisions

Decisions are always difficult for teens as they struggle to feel confident. Perfectionism can often paralyze behavior and their ability to process information.  Fortunately, plants are flexible and forgiving. Making choices and decisions in caring for them offers avenues for trial and error as well as recognition that there is not always a “right” way to garden.

Communication of Emotions

Emotions can often get the best of us, but for teens emotions are often expressed in unpredictable and in unusual ways. We find that our garden provides many fantastic metaphors, which enable teens to express emotions in deeper and more appropriate ways.

Shelterwood Rd2 459 copy Healthy Food = Healthy LivesGood Food

Those with eating disorders often view food in a different way.  Research suggests that food often takes on a “bad guy” persona.  Food actually becomes an object of fear.  Those who struggle with eating issues often detach themselves from food and have difficulty feeling safe around it.  Being involved in the production of food ties teens back to food.  Because of the teen’s investment in the food, they are able to slowly change the way they view the purpose and intention of it.

We are thankful for the garden at Shelterwood and are excited to see its therapeutic benefits continue.

Relationships continue after the program ends

Screen Shot 2015 09 17 at 11.15.40 AM 300x213 Relationships continue after the program ends# Impact Lives

Life after Shelterwood is actually a very special chance to deepen relationships and demonstrate real care for one another.  I was thoroughly blessed when three former Shelterwood students came to my wedding.  Others students wanted to come, I look at those pictures, and for some of them life has been significantly more difficult since Shelterwood, but they are strong enough to bear it thanks to Shelterwood. It is a beautiful testament to the Lord, the week leading up to the wedding the kids stayed at my parents house and I laughed with them, and joked as we recalled various stories, and had deep spiritual conversations. To impact lives is such a privilege and together we are better off.  These young men will remain friends and I hope that we can continue to care for one another.

Former Shelterwood Mentor

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Find out how Shelterwood continues to impact lives long after the tuition is paid. Check out other student stories of change or parent reviews.

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