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The Mission of Olivewood Gardens and Learning Center is to empower students and families from diverse backgrounds to be healthy and active citizens through organic gardening, environmental stewardship, and nutrition education. Our Vision is to reconnect students and families to the natural environment through food, education and community engagement.

About Olivewood Gardens:

Olivewood Gardens and Learning Center’s historic 6.85-acre property in National City, California serves as an interactive, indoor-outdoor classroom for children and adults from around San Diego County.  Our purpose is to build healthy families and a healthy environment.  We do this through science based environmental education lessons, hands-on gardening, and hands-on cooking for students and families from underserved communities.

Who We Are:

Started in February 2010, Olivewood Gardens, a 501(c) 3, is a garden and nutrition education center.  Olivewood Gardens is a Type 1 supporting organization of the International Community Foundation.   The house, gardens, and property were donated to the Foundation by the Walton family in 2006 and later gifted to Olivewood Gardens in 2010.

Our staff serves our community with the help of dedicated volunteers including:

  • Chefs
  • Food professionals
  • Master gardeners
  • Scientists
  • College students
  • Educators

What We Do:

Olivewood’s purpose is to build healthy families and a healthy environment.  We work with children, families and adults through hands on classes in the garden and the kitchen.  Our children’s program offers visiting school children a curriculum of ecological, academic and culinary lessons to build scientific literacy and environmental awareness, while encouraging students and visitors to explore the interrelationships between a quality diet, sustainable agriculture and healthy living. Through garden-based education, our programs inspire children and families to explore connections between plants and the natural world, and the disciplines of history, science, art, literature, math, geography and nutrition. Our science based environmental education program adds hands-on, inquiry-based workshops in sustainable agriculture, water conservation, recycling and composting.  Our parent program Cooking for Salud™ empowers parents to transform their kitchen into a healthy foods zone.

Through our partnership with National School District, Third, Fourth, and Fifth graders visit Olivewood three times a year, giving students the chance to observe the garden’s different growing seasons as they move through the calendar year. Our  programs are appropriate to the season and the natural happenings on the property. During each visit, students rotate through three sessions –a science lesson, a gardening activity, a nutritious cooking activity – that engage them in the full cycle of cultivating, preparing and eating fresh produce from the garden.  Students from pre-K through high school school from throughout the County participate in annual visits to Olivewood, for a similar experience.

In the garden, students undertake a grade-appropriate sequence of standards-based science lessons.

Our life science curriculum was developed by teachers and conforms with California’s state educational requirements. Sample life science topics include Weather & Adaptation, Food Chain, Pollination, Life Cycles and Plant Biology. To extend the learning experience, we provide teachers with additional curriculum to use in their classrooms.

In our intimate demonstration kitchen, students receive cooking lessons from our chef educator or guest chefs and participate in hands-on culinary alchemy. We highlight age-appropriate, easy, wholesome recipes that feature seasonal produce from our garden. We encourage students to explore the food they sample with all their senses, and to encourage them to be adventurous eaters. In doing so, we increase their enjoyment of and knowledge about healthy foods and positively affect their attitudes and behavior toward consuming fruits and vegetables.

In addition to our children’s program and Cooking for Salud™, Olivewood offers gardening classes, field trips, weekly tours, and weekend family days, along with meetings and luncheons for health- and sustainability-related companies and organizations.

In 2014 Olivewood was recognized by San Diego County as a Live Well San Diego Partner and in 2015 we received the Public Health Champion Award for the South Region.

Where We Work:

Olivewood Gardens is surrounded by a socioeconomically disadvantaged community with one of the highest childhood obesity rates in the state of California.  According to San Diego County’s Department of Health & Human Services, the rate of diabetes hospitalization and mortality is 2.3 times greater in National City than the county average.

While we serve students and adults from around San Diego County, our primary constituency is our neighbors in National City. National City, squeezed between its giant neighbors San Diego and Chula Vista, has few human and social service organizations located within its borders. Yet the need is enormous: According to California Border Kids Count, in 2007, 34% of National City’s children and youth lived in poverty.  Eighty-five percent of students in the National School District qualify for free/reduced lunch.  Because of our focus on National City youth, children on field trips from National City schools comprise nearly 50% of the 125 classes who visit Olivewood each year.

What We Have Accomplished:

  • Over 46,000 community visits since February 2010
  • 28,000 hours of CA standards-based elementary student instruction
  • Over 2,000 volunteers and 30,000 hours donated
  • Trained over 500 adults in gardening, cooking, and leadership
  • Engaged nearly 50 community members through the Resident Leadership Academy in 2011, 2013, and 2015
  • Highlighted in the San Diego Union-Tribune, Edible San Diego magazine, San Diego Magazine, and others
  • Featured in Savor San Diego with Su Mei Yu and A Growing Passion with Nan Sterman on KPBS
  • Received two landscape design awards, including an Orchid Award for “Engaging the people”
  • Funded by The California Endowment, Kaiser Permanente, SDG&E, The San Diego Foundation, Union Bank, Cigna Foundation, Cox Communications, Neighborhood National Bank, CA Restaurant Assoc. of San Diego, Albertson’s, Whole Foods, Kashi, Qualcomm, Clif Bar Foundation, Whole Kids Foundation, Kaiser Permanente San Diego, County of San Diego, and National City and hundreds of generous individuals in our community.

Program Impact:

Olivewood’s biggest impact is the change in behavior that we are seeing in children, families, and the community.

  • Children are eating more fruits and vegetables
  • Children (and adults!) are becoming more adventurous eaters
  • Parents are reducing the amount of sugar, salt, and fat in the foods they prepare at home
  • Teachers are observing that students are reducing waste and recycling more
  • Civic leaders are engaging with parents and families about health and environmental changes

Olivewood Gardens is one of the few school garden programs in the country that emphasizes food preparation along with garden cultivation, teaching children and adults not just to grow but how to cook – and enjoy – tasty, healthy, whole foods since February 2010.  We are the only center of our kind serving San Diego County’s three million rural, urban and suburban residents. By practicing positive nutritional choices over the long term, local children and community members may reduce their risk of chronic diseases associated with obesity including diabetes, cancer, and heart disease.