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Secret to Raising Food-Smart Kids: A School Garden That's Also a Classroom

Food philosopher Alice Waters says it's time gardens become common teaching tools.

by Marian Burros



Secret to Raising Food-Smart Kids: A School Garden That's Also a Classroom

If your school doesn't have a garden, it's time to plant one.

RODALE NEWS, EMMAUS, PA—It’s true! What Michelle Obama has been saying at the White House garden—and everywhere else—for the last year and a half: Connecting kids and gardens increases their appreciation for fruits and vegetables. But planting the school garden is just the first step.

A three-year study done at the University of California–Berkeley shows that when schools teach some classes in the school’s garden and kitchen, and offer healthy fare in their cafeterias, it has a very clear and positive impact on kids’ diets. And on their attitudes towards food: Kids not only eat more fruits and vegetables, they know more about nutrition.

Alice Waters, famed food and cookbook author, and executive chef/founder of the Chez Panisse restaurant in Berkeley, whose Chez Panisse Foundation commissioned the study, thinks the results have come at the right moment. “People are looking for validation of all these things we always felt to be true,” she says. “Had it come out three years ago I don’t know if it could have the effect it is having right now. This is the right timing.”

THE DETAILS: Five years ago the Berkeley (CA) Unified School District started its school lunch initiative. Parts of it were funded by the Chez Panisse Foundation and the Center for Ecoliteracy. The foundations, of course, paid for many of the improvements that produced what the researchers call "highly developed food programs": cooking and gardening classes, improved lunches, and nicer cafeterias. Some Berkeley schools have the highly developed programs; some just have gardens.

Between 2006 and 2009, researchers at the Atkins Center at UC-Berkeley followed 238 Berkeley third and fourth graders, comparing those in the schools with the highly developed cooking and gardening classes with the children in schools without such programs. And it turned out that the kids who partook of the new programs ate 1.5 more servings a day of fruits and vegetables, while the kids in the other schools reduced their consumption by nearly a quarter of a serving.

The first group also got higher scores on nutrition tests, and actually asked for more green leafy vegetables like spinach, chard, and kale. (Let's face it, most kids don’t even know what those last two are.) More of their family dinners were prepared from scratch using recipes from school. The children helped prepare dinner. Children in the schools without the cooking and gardening programs showed no increase in any of these activities, though they did eat a family dinner nearly every day.

Filed Under: CHILD NUTRITION, CHILDHOOD OBESITY, LET'S MOVE, ORGANIC GARDENING

Published on: October 7, 2010



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I think this "garden" school

I think this "garden" school is a real opportunity for those students who want to learn and have a career after that.  In a normal school a student can be distracted from his goal, but here he can focus better and finish with good grades. Unfortunately such schools are expensive. I personally want to teach in such school, I applied for one similar job and I am hoping that with my pa teacher certification to be hired soon. I want to see how these schools help their students more than a regular school.

Lots of people who have a

Lots of people who have a masters degree in curriculum and instruction will agree with this suggestion, but there is one small issue: how many schools can actually afford to implement such a program? Maybe first the government should allocate funds for schools to be able to do that.

This is a very smart

This is a very smart initiative. Congrats to the person who is behind this project. I will try to pass on your ideas to a few San Diego colleges. Hope you don't mind me doing that. Good luck and have a nice day!!

I just got a human servicers

I just got a human servicers online degree and I am very glad to tell you this.I am also very happy to see that there are teachers who think a garden can be a classroom as well.Many of them forgot this and sometimes this is the only thing you need to get through.

I think that such an activity

I think that such an activity could be a start for kids who will later probably want to apply for online masters in leadership. Educational activities that promote a healthy life style and teach us about the importance of respecting the environment is surely something that the future will require from us all. Good job!!

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I remember the days when I

I remember the days when I was in school and we didn't have that many unhealthy food options. I just got my masters public administration degree a week ago and when I look back into the past and compare it to the present, well, the things have changed so much and not for the better. I just wish that communities would be more united when it comes to education and kids.

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