Schools encourage children to grow and eat their own produce - an initiative to adopt healthy eating habits.
Through community-based kitchen garden programs, particularly those with dedicated cooking components, schools are successfully introducing students to healthier foods. In a new study released in the March/April 2013 issue of the Journal of Nutrition Education and Behavior, researchers found that growing and then cooking the foods that kids grew increased their willingness to try new foods.
A group of investigators from the University of Melbourne and Deakin University recruited a total of 764 children in grades 3 to 6 and 562 parents participating in the Stephanie Alexander Kitchen Garden Program. The program model is embedded in the school curriculum and includes 45 minutes per week in a garden class with a garden specialist and 90 minutes per week in the kitchen with a cooking specialist. The program is designed to give children knowledge and skills in environmentally sustainable gardening along with the skills to prepare and cook 3- or 4-course meals based on available fresh produce from the garden. Different dishes prepared each week included handmade pastry, bread and pasta, salads, curries, and desserts.
Petra Staiger, PhD, co-investigator from Deakin University added, "Data and class observations also suggested that the social environment of the class increased children's willingness to try new foods. This included sitting down together to share and enjoy the meal that they had prepared, with encouragement to taste but no pressure to eat."
For school gardens, this study emphasizes the other half of the equation to growing the food in school gardens, which is learning how to prepare it...true farm to fork programs.