Chef and Owner of Firefly Tapas Restaurant John Simmons donated a check to leave his legacy in Las Vegas at Rose Warren Elementary School

Fighting childhood obesity one garden at a time

By Debbie Hall 

Candace Maddin is fighting childhood obesity in Las Vegas with her Create A Change Now 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization. As president and co-founder, Maddin is behind Michelle Obama’s Let’s Move! campaign with her own mission to help students plant edible school gardens in elementary schools in Clark County. Once the gardens are planted, students care for the fruits and vegetables until the harvest. Create A Change Now then enlists some of the best chefs in Las Vegas to visit the schools and teach students how to cook what they harvest. 

Maddin brings nearly 30 years of business development, management experience and a love of cooking, which inspired her to attend the Cordon Blue Cooking School in England and study with Jaques Pepin, Alice Waters, Martha Stewart and Flo Braker. As a wife and mother, Maddin made certain her daughter was involved. 

“I grew my own tomatoes and Tiffany (her daughter) used to help Mommy in the garden,” Maddin said. “When we would go to the market, I had her partake in the selection of fruits and veggies—I turned it into a game.” 

Maddin understands the challenges of today’s fast-pace world and the economy. 

Mayor Carolyn Goodman with chefs at the ribbon cutting of the Rose Warren Elementary School garden

“The economy certainly has had an effect on the family life. Most homes have both parents and single moms working sometimes two jobs to make a living. Parents are tired when they come home, so going to the market and then cooking a meal is sometimes the last thing you want to do. Inexpensive and convenience becomes the primary goal when getting your kids fed, so fast food becomes the easy and economically accepted meal. Times may be tough, but that doesn’t mean you have to eat poorly. It just takes planning ahead,” she said. 

Her advice to parents today is, “Start early—think, plan, put in some effort. We are only given one chance to help mold and educate our children before they start making their own choices—embrace it!” 

At her husband Jimmy’s restaurant, Baja California Restaurant & Cantina, each child who orders off the Create A Change Now menu gets a packet of carrot seeds to take home at plant. According to Maddin, “I have been at schools where children have never experienced eating a freshly cut carrot. My hope is that it might just show a child that their food comes from the ground and not grown down at the market.” 

Councilwoman Lois Tarkanian helping on planting day at Rose Warren Elementary School

Recently, Chef and Owner of Firefly Tapas Restaurant, John Simmons, donated a check to Rose Warren Elementary School where a garden was planted and they held a chef’s demonstration. Simmons plans to stay connected to this garden and is looking forward to sharing this with his son. 

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