By AMERICAN HEART ASSOCIATION NEWS

Kelly Meyer co-founded the American Heart Association Teaching Gardens.

Kelly Meyer co-founded the American Heart Association Teaching Gardens.

On the hit sitcom Brooklyn Nine-Nine, Detective Amy Santiago is strictly by the book. But Melissa Fumero, the actress who plays her, is lending her voice to a video segment about kids ditching the classroom and heading out to the school garden for a lesson on better nutrition.

Fumero will introduce viewers to the American Heart Association Teaching Gardens program in a new television segment premiering Sunday during Brooklyn Nine-Nine. It is part of Ford Motor Company’s Go Further Everyday Heroes video series that showcases Ford owners, dealers and employees who are making a difference in their communities.

Ford owner and health activist Kelly Meyer co-founded the AHA Teaching Gardens program in 2010 after starting a gardening program at her children’s school.

“The AHA’s Teaching Gardens program was appealing to us because it is a true example of how Kelly goes further in her life,” said Kellee Montgomery, Ford’s social marketing manager. “Helping kids become passionate about something while learning a valuable skill is truly inspiring and we wanted to share Kelly’s story with others.”

The program is now in 339 schools nationwide, including the James A. Foshay Learning Center in south central Los Angeles. Students there have maintained the garden for five years and are featured in the new video.

Grocery stores in the area are scarce, said Randy Ryan, manager of the AHA Teaching Gardens in Los Angeles.

“A lot of these kids only see concrete,” Ryan said in the video. “They only see graffiti. They only see railroad tracks. I’m telling you, when kids are exposed to nature it does something to them and they start thinking of the world a little bit differently.”

Learning where food comes from can directly impact children’s health and diet, Montgomery said. Currently, nearly four in 10 high school students consume fruits and vegetables less than once a day, according to a 2013 report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

But according to various studies, garden-based nutrition programs can promote increased fruit and vegetable intake among American children, of whom about one in three is overweight or obese.

Gardening can also offer life lessons, said Meyer.

“There’s an awakening when you work with nature, see something grow from a tiny seed,” she said. “Kids see and feel that as a metaphor. If you put a little love and attention into a tiny seed, it becomes really big and becomes something important to sustain everyone.”

Through Teaching Gardens, students plant seeds, nurture the growing plants and harvest the food. The garden-based learning program also teaches kids about nutrition, health, math and science, and encourages them to share what they learn with family members.

“We hope the Go Further videos inspire people to become more involved with their community and causes that inspire them,” Montgomery said. “Teaching kids where healthy food comes from establishes an important foundation for health in all communities.”

The AHA Teaching Gardens segment will also air in May during Fox’s Bones, Wayward Pines and Weird Loners.

Photo courtesy of Randy Ryan. Video courtesy of Ford Go Further campaign by Ford Motor Company.