Tim Pearce | Energy Reporter

The U.S. Department of Agriculture awarded hundreds of thousands of taxpayer dollars to Southern University in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, to teach teenagers “sustainable gardening.”

The grant, awarded in March, allotted the university $245,331 for the university to run a program that teaches 13- to 17-year-olds “the importance of growing their own produce.” Teens that go through the program are certified “Youth Master Gardeners” at the end. The Washington Free Beacon first reported Monday about the grant.

The programs overall goal is to help eliminate “food deserts,” areas where fresh produce is hard to find, and teach teenagers about the importance of eating healthy. Other goals of the program include teaching leadership skills, improving teens self-esteem and help teens learn “environmental stewardship.”

Federal officials hope that program participants will change the mindsets of their families as well.

“The implementation of this grant desires to change the mindset of families hoping individuals realize the cost efficiency associated with growing their own fresh produce,” the grant says.

Southern University will also use the grant money to “develop an Annual Fitness Rally, which [will] be held in May just before the end of school to combat obesity since kids tend to overeat during the summertime.”

U.S. first lady Michelle Obama reacts between PBS Sesame Street characters Elmo and Rosita after delivering remarks on marketing healthier foods to children at the White House in Washington on Oct. 30, 2013. REUTERS/Yuri Gripas

Former President Barack Obama launched an initiative in 2010 to eradicate food deserts. Former first lady Michelle Obama announced the program to hand out $250 million in tax credits from the U.S. Department of the Treasury to food retailers that set up stores in areas largely served by gas stations and convenience stores, Reuters reported at the time. (RELATED: Kentucky Students To First Lady Michelle Obama: Your Food Tastes Like Vomit)

The Department of Agriculture also promised to spend another $50 million in loans, grants and promotions to provide fresh produce and healthy food in food deserts. The department did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

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