‘Changing Our Communities for the Better’

Medical student Vivian Leung in the garden at King Elementary School

It’s a sunny Wednesday afternoon, and Rush University medical student Vivian Leung gathers a group of second- through eighth-graders around the vegetable garden she helped them plant. “Who remembers what this is?” she asks, pointing toward a patch of green leaves. “Aru-? Arugu-?”

“Arugula!” a boy answers, setting in motion one of many after-school lessons Leung has led as part of what she calls the “edible schoolyard program” at King Elementary, a public school on Chicago’s West Side. She visits the school once a week to discuss, tend and eat the vegetables with children. In the process, Leung is breaking down obstacles to healthy eating that plague many Chicago communities.

King is in the middle of a food desert — an area, usually composed of lower-income communities, whose residents have limited access to grocery stores or other retailers that sell healthy, affordable food. These areas foster unhealthy diets that can lead to diabetes, heart disease and obesity-related metabolic disease. Continue reading