Insights & Actions for Healthy Living
School Gardens Have a Healthy Impact on Children’s Eating

School Gardens Have a Healthy Impact on Children’s Eating

Parents struggle at times to get children to eat all the foods served at mealtime — especially vegetables!

Most kids will eat a few chosen veggies but not all kinds.

It feels like there’s nothing parents can do to get kids to eat what they don’t want to eat.

Refusal can lead to a conflict at meal times between parents, who want their children to get the best nutrition possible, and kids, who won’t try what’s on their plate.

Perhaps it is the color, shape, texture or smell that turns kids off from eating their vegetables.

Helping children appreciate the food they eat is one goal parents hope to achieve and schools are now helping through the use of school gardens.

The hope is school gardens will help kids enjoy eating good, healthy, and fresh food!

Benefits of School Gardens

Children are able to achieve many benefits by participating in a school garden and the school can incorporate the gardens into all parts of the curriculum.

School gardens are not new and have actually been growing for many years. There are an estimated 5,000 gardens in schools across the country.

Research has demonstrated benefits kids get when they participate and schools when they take the lead.

  1. Knowledge of how food is grown, beginning with the dirt
  2. Physical activity
  3. Hands-on experiences
  4. Learning about new foods that may not be part of their current diet and foods from other cultures
  5. Linking the school lesson plan in all subjects to activities in the garden
  6. Connecting the garden to the cafeteria!
  7. Improvements in academic success, social behavior, food choices, and obesity rates.
  8. Eating more fruits and vegetables and sharing better nutrition ideals with family members
  9. Gaining a safe place to feel calm, happy, and relaxed
  10. Learning interpersonal and cooperative skills

Research Tells Us

For students, there has been research regarding the positive impact participation in school gardens can give them, both mentally and physically.

Academics: The Child in the Garden: An Evaluative Review of the Benefits of School Gardening by Dorothy Blair (2010)

 “9 of the 12 studies revealed a positive difference in test measures between gardening students and non-gardening students. School gardening increased the science scores in all reported studies”

Obesity Prevention:  LA Sprouts: A Gardening, Nutrition, and Cooking Intervention for Latino Youth Improves Diet and Reduces Obesity by Jaimie N. Davis, et al (2011)

“a 12-week intervention focused on gardening, nutrition, and cooking can lead to dietary improvements and reductions in blood pressure and the rate of weight gain in Latino children”

Schools Starting Gardens

Staring a school garden can seem overwhelming if your child’s school does not yet have one.

There are many steps parents, teachers, and community partners can take to get the garden growing.

Remember to include the students in each step to achieve real learning!

  • Start with location that is suitable to plant growth – considerations include adequate sunshine for at least 6 hours a day, water source, soil, pests
  • Try to find a site accessible to all students
  • If there is not a suitable site at school, consider container gardens or community gardens as learning labs
  • Test the soil to know if amendments are needed and check for any soil contamination with help of Cooperative Extension Program
  • Choose plants that will achieve goals of the program, size of growth acceptable for garden, product for taste testing, low maintenance, suitable for the climate, and connection with curriculum
  • Build a garden using materials such as logs, wood or containers; make raised beds for accessibility; include garden paths and composting area to give back to the soil; add benches or picnic table to make garden a meeting place
  • Partner with local organizations that can help mentor the students, such as a 4-H program, local garden clubs, college agricultural programs, extension services, master gardeners, garden supply companies, and landscapers
  • Create lessons that grow from the garden, including use of the food in recipes, cooking techniques, nutrition and health, math principles, early literacy, environmental issues, science projects, nature, community pride, and sustainability

Asset to Education & Children’s Health

School gardens have proven kids will eat what they grow — and like it!

A garden at school is a prime place to learn about good nutrition and health habits, like physical activity.

Skills our children learn in the garden will stay with them throughout their lives!

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