Parents who are struggling to get their kids to eat healthier would be well advised to consider working with their kids – or their kids’ schools – to take up gardening. Turns out the simple act of adding school gardens results in kids eating more vegetables.
In a study covering 16 schools across Central Texas, researchers worked with students to put in gardens. They also included courses on nutrition and cooking. The combination worked. Kids willingly consumed an extra half a cup of vegetables each day.
“Teaching kids where their food comes from, how to grow it, how to prepare it – that’s key to changing eating behaviors over the long term,” say Jaimie Davis, an associate professor of nutritional sciences at UT Austin and lead author of the study.
The study was part of a focus on schools serving underprivileged children. These areas are often considered ‘food deserts’ due to the absence of grocery stores selling fresh produce and other nutritious foods. As a result, many kids in these areas suffer from high levels of obesity, diabetes, and other health challenges.
And although a half cup of vegetables may not seem like a big leap forward, as most parents know, getting a child to consume a single broccoli floret or green bean can at times seem impossible.
“Behavior changes can be difficult to achieve, especially long term,” says Davis. “Getting children to eat more vegetables can potentially set them up for long-term success.”
Want to start your child or child’s school on the path to gardening? Check out Kids Gardening, a wonderful resource designed to help that includes grants and other support programs.