Friday, September 5, 2014

School Nutrition and Gardening

Welcome to the new school year! This month I begin my position as a graduate assistant with the John C. Stalker Institute of Food and Nutrition at Framingham State University. The John Stalker Institute (JSI) provides information, resources, and workshops for Massachusetts school and child nutrition professionals, to address child nutrition and healthy nutrition environments. Visit the JSI website to learn more about the institute. My work will relate to social media and online communications, and I am looking forward to learning more about school nutrition.

On the topic of school nutrition, I would like to share an infographic that I made and some information that I gathered on school gardening and nutrition, for my Computers in Nutrition Education course that I took last semester. Enjoy!

School Gardening and Nutrition

There are many good reasons to incorporate gardening into the classroom. School gardens are a great way to get children physically active, and to engage student interest while teaching them about science, nutrition, and numerous other topics. In particular, several studies have demonstrated benefits of school gardening in relation to nutrition. For example:
  • In 3rd-5th grade students who participated in gardening activities in Texas, students had an increased preference for vegetables and an increased preference for fruits and vegetables as a snack.
  • Morris and colleagues found that in 1st grade students involved with a school-gardening program, students better identified food-groups and were more willing to taste vegetables.
  • In a study on 4th grade students in California, the students who were involved in garden-based nutrition education had a greater preference for vegetables, including snow peas and zucchini, compared to a control group and a group that only had classroom-based nutrition education. In a six-month follow up, the garden group still had greater preferences for broccoli, zucchini, and snow peas compared to the other groups.
The development of eating habits begins at an early age, and garden-based learning is one effective way to incorporate nutrition education into the classroom and to promote healthy eating habits. For more benefits of school gardening, please see the infographic below (click on the image to enlarge it if needed).