By Adams Carroll, AmeriCorps VISTA Member, Urban Agriculture Program -
Today we’re announcing a new Hands On Nashville initiative called ReCYCLE for Kids Presented by Cummins! For the next two Saturdays, we’re holding bike drives to collect used kids’ bikes. Volunteers will refurbish them, and then in December we’re gifting them to kids who may not otherwise have the opportunity to own their own bike. Our goal is to collect 300 bikes. Will you join us? Check out this short video of a similar effort in Portland, Ore. that inspired Hands On Nashville’s ReCYCLE for Kids.
In this blog post, our own Adams Carroll reminisces about his early biking adventures, and paints a bigger picture for why this initiative matters to our community.
I remember the first time I rode a bike – who doesn’t? I was one of the last kids in my neighborhood to learn this essential childhood skill. I remember feeling left out when everybody else on the block would go out on some small adventure and I would be left behind… or running to catch up! I also remember being an overweight child, and the effects that this had on my self-confidence and interactions with my peers. Nevertheless, when I finally learned how to ride my bicycle, I wasn’t thinking about all of the great health benefits I was about to reap. I was too busy enjoying that unique feeling of freedom that you can only experience when you are 8 years old, coasting down a hill on a little bicycle with one speed and a coaster brake. And maybe some sweet baseball cards in your spokes. There should be a word for that feeling.
ReCYCLE for Kids Bike Drives:
Sat., Oct. 13, 10a-4p
Hands On Nashville office
37 Peabody Street
Sat., Oct. 20, 10a-4p
Oasis Center Bike Workshop
Youth Opportunity Center
1704 Charlotte Avenue
According to a 2010 Youth Risk Behavior Survey administered by the Metro Department of Health, nearly 18 percent of Metro Nashville Public Schools high school students are overweight, and an additional 15 percent of students are obese. Locally and nationally, these numbers have risen steadily as our diets have increased in fat and sugar content and our physical activity levels have dropped. As this generation of children matures, they will find themselves at a higher risk for preventable illnesses like diabetes and heart disease than any generation that has preceded them. If nothing is done to combat this trend, doctors from the National Institute of Health predict that today’s kids will be the first generation in American history to have a shorter life expectancy than their parents.
As an adult, just as in childhood, I struggle to maintain a healthy weight. I’ll admit it: even though I understand the importance of maintaining a balanced diet, I love hot chicken and pizza. But since I started riding my bike again in 2004, I’ve noticed a drastic change in my health. I have more energy, sleep better, and am more productive at work. It’s rare that I take a sick day. And best of all, I get to be outside and be active at least twice a day. The health benefits of physical activity are real and measurable, and my waistline thanks me for that.
So if we want our kids to be healthy, how can we encourage them to be active? One way is to encourage kids to do something that they already enjoy. Riding a bicycle is one of the best kid-friendly forms of exercise because:
- it is an activity that can be shared with friends and family
- it is recommended by the Center for Disease Control and the Department of Health and Human Services
- it is an activity that can be continued into adulthood, encouraging lifelong health benefits
- it is awesome; kids love doing it
Okay, that all sounds good, but as with most health issues, it isn’t that easy. One issue, especially in our city, is that low-income communities tend to experience more environmental factors that increase the likelihood of childhood obesity. Whether this means a lack of access to fresh, nutritious food or fewer playgrounds and safe places to walk, the result is the same. Findings from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey show that low-income children are more likely to become overweight or obese. As they grow older, these health consequences can hold kids back as they try to get ahead. Sure, riding a bike is a great kid-friendly way to have fun and exercise, but many economically disadvantaged families are unable to justify the purchase of a bike. Tight family budgets, and the reality that a bike only has a useful life of 1-2 years for growing kids, are barriers.
For the past year, Hands On Nashville volunteers have worked with our Urban Agriculture Program to grow healthy foods for families in need at the HON Urban Farm. At our farm’s Youth Service Camp, kids being served by our nonprofits partners have learned about nutrition and the food system while practicing gardening techniques. And today, I’m happy to announce a new Hands On Nashville initiative that will give deserving kids a new tool in the fight against childhood obesity: a bicycle! Our new program, ReCYCLE for Kids Presented by Cummins, will use the power of volunteers to collect, refurbish, and gift bicycles to local kids in need.
This fall, in partnership with the Oasis Center, we will bring volunteers to the Oasis Bike Workshop to rebuild donated bikes to like-new condition. In December, more than 300 kids will join us at Rocketown for a day of bike safety education and a skills course to test their new knowledge. They will all go home with a helmet and the bicycle of their choosing. By the end of the day, there will be a lot of new first-time-I-rode-a-bike memories, and a lot more kids with access to a fun and healthy way to stay active.
YOU can help. If your child has outgrown their old bike, donate it to HON at one of our two upcoming bike drives. (Make sure to get your kid a sweet new bike at one of Nashville’s great local bike shops while you’re at it). If you don’t have a bike to donate, then help us spread the word! We want to get kids bikes out of the waste stream and back on the streets.
Do you have a fun first-bike memory you’d like to share?
A native Nashvillian, Adams Carroll serves as AmeriCorps VISTA Member for HON’s Urban Agriculture Program. He oversees the development of the Urban Farm Apprenticeship and Summer Youth Service Camp program. A bicycling enthusiast and dedicated bike commuter, Adams is a volunteer with Walk/Bike Nashville, the Oasis Center, and Free Bike Shop. His longest bike ride? 3,500 miles across 14 states.