Where does your food come from?
“Our food comes from the market, “its comes from the villages to the market and my mother brings it home…” this was the response I received from Miss Evelyn, a student in one of the country’s junior high
School gardens are not new. Growing up in the 90s (in primary and Junior high school), my school had a garden and so did many other schools in their schoolyard. The students worked in the garden and, in return, received a nutritious lunch every day.
In an era where kids’ lives are more sedentary, and where childhood obesity has risen dramatically, gardens support and encourage healthful eating as a key component of children’s physical wellbeing, which can aid their academic and social success, too. And as the consequences of food desert and poor nutrition on life outcomes become starker, advocates say that school gardens can act as a counterweight — an outdoor respite for children growing up in environments that can be otherwise unsafe or barren.
Where cries of “Eat your vegetables!” and “Haven’t you had enough sugar?” fall flat, how exactly can school gardens prompt healthier eating habits — and what are the best practices for establishing one?
Good Nutrition: What Works, and What Gets In the Way
We know that increased access to healthful food can improve diet and health. Studies have found that multiple supermarkets within a one-mile radius of a person’s home is correlated with a significantly higher consumption of fruits and vegetables, and that greater access to produce, lower produce prices, and higher fast-food prices are related to lower BMI, especially among low-income teenagers.
Changing eating habits goes beyond questions of access. If children aren’t used to trying new foods, they just won’t do it.
Schools can — and many argue should — play a critical role in shifting children’s perceptions of food and enhancing access to healthful foods. Every time kids set foot in the cafeteria/canteen, they are absorbing messages about food and what a healthy meal should look like.
But the way schools traditionally teach nutrition isn’t working. In far too many schools around the country, nutrition education looks like an authority figure standing at the front of the classroom pointing at a government poster on the wall. And that has been true for generations, and it has not driven the kind of healthy eating culture that our children need to succeed in school and in life. I believe that just as we have learned that memorization is no longer the right way to teach kids math or English skills, the same is true with nutrition education.
The Benefits of School Gardens
School gardens provide students with a real-time look at how food is grown. There are different models for how these gardens work, but in many, children of different ages have regular lessons in the garden, learning how to grow, harvest, and prepare a variety of fruits and vegetables.
Several students have shown that gardens can be key in shifting children’s nutritional practices:
- A 2017 evaluation of FoodCorps conducted by the Tisch Center for Food, Education, and Policy at Teachers College, Columbia University found that in schools that provide frequent, high-quality opportunities for hands-on nutrition learning, students eat up to three times more fruits and vegetables at school lunch — regardless of whether or not that food was grown in the garden.
- The effects extend outside the school day, too. A 2018 randomized control study by Nancy Wells at Cornell University found that children whose schools provided regular school garden lessons had more access to low-fat vegetables and fruit at home than children without that curricula.
Why do gardens have such an impact on children’s eating habits?
- Unlike lectures or worksheets on healthful practices, gardens provide an experiential, hands-on learning environment where kids get the chance to smell the leaves of the tomato plant and eat the freshly harvested carrots. Working in a garden is a real-world activity; it engages students and encourages them to explore and reason independently.
- While most children receive only 3.4 hours of nutrition education a year, maintaining a school garden necessitates that nutrition lessons become a consistent, built-in part of students’ educational experience, it takes between 35 and 50 hours of nutrition education a year to change kids’ preferences over the long term.
- That repeated exposure can also build the emotional connections to food that are essential to behavior change. When children spend weeks or months growing their food, they feel proud of and connected to it — which is key to trying new dishes with an open mind
School garden comes with a lot of benefits;
Children get to learn how to care for the living soil and plants giving them the understanding and principles of birth, maturity, death, competition, cooperation and many other lessons that relates to human lives or the cycle of life. It helps educates the children academically and emotionally.
In conclusion; children will have a full insight of how and where their foods are developed from and the process it goes through. They get to have empathy for the living organisms and creating a bond with nature tending to value nature.
Do you have a school garden/ Is your school interested in growing their crops in a garden? Do you want to support a school with funding for a garden? Talk to us @Letsgofarmingtv (Instagram and Facebook) or send us an email at [email protected]
About the writer:
Ewurama is a communication specialist. She has been working with schools in the last three years to introduce and support them to cultivate vegetable gardens under Let’sGoFarmingtv