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School Garden: Food and Nutritional Security for Children

Nutrition at various life stages has been associated with the risk of chronic diseases later in life. Therefore it is important for healthy food habit to be established in childhood since these are likely to track through adolescence into adulthood. Involving children in gardening is one type of intervention that has the potential to increase fruits and vegetable intake. Gardening can increase childrens exposure to fruits and vegetables and to positive modeling of peers and adults. Repeated exposure to Fruits and vegetables can build a positive habit of liking and intake. Researchers reported that children who spend less time outside have decreased physical activity. Thus, it is crucial to creating opportunities for children to experience the natural environment, thereby inducing interest and motivation in spending time outdoors. A school garden program is an educational tool to teach students about agriculture, nutrition, and health, and to equip them with the critical and holistic thinking to face challenges as environments change. Agricultural and environmental education positively increases students knowledge, understanding, and appreciation of the environment and food production system. It provides them with the ability to grow their own food for nutrition and equips them for a possible career in agriculture. The school garden movement originated in Europe and arrived in the United States in the 1890s (Swank et al., 2013).

The 3 R s of School Gardening

Apart from different benefits as a teaching tool, there are 3 core areas of school gardening in which children’s lives are radically improved. They become Ready to learn, Resilient and Responsible.

School gardens come in all shapes and sizes, with a common focus on growing plants. A school garden may be as small as a few pots of herbs growing on a windowsill or as large as a half-acre plot of vegetables in a schoolyard. Gardening programs are flexible enough to fit the needs and resources of every school.

School gardens with nutrition education implemented and rigorously tested in many schools in the US and Europe significantly improved students’ 1) Fruit and vegetable knowledge and awareness 2) Attitudes, preferences, and willingness to eat diverse foods 3) Fruit and vegetable intake 4) Healthy dietary habits 5) Physical activity levels 6) Academic performance 7) Appreciation and care for the environment 8) Sense of responsibility, confidence, enhanced communication and well-being, 9) Social/Emotional Learning and Life Skill Development. 10) The idea of gardening and planning.

Fun and Easy Vegetables to Plant in Your School Garden

Sugar snap peas, lettuce, spinach, leafy greens, radishes, carrots, potatoes, green beans, cherry tomatoes, tomatillos, pumpkins, broccoli, sunflowers, pakchoi, and kale.

To successfully achieve food and nutrition goals, a multi-intervention school garden program must contain the following elements: • A curriculum integrating agriculture, nutrition and WASH concepts and practices • A school garden for hands-on learning • Involvement of parents and the wider community for support and promotion. Vegetables Go to School (VGtS) is a multidisciplinary school garden project by WVC (World Vegetable Centre, Taiwan) piloting the use of multi-intervention school garden programs in Bhutan, Burkina Faso, Indonesia and Nepal to improve food security and nutrition. For lower-income areas where food security is the main concern, school garden programs must link to home gardening in the community to increase the local availability of healthy food. The major constraints perceived by students in school garden projects are high input cost, lack of students participation, lack of teachers involvement, non-availability of implements, high labour cost, poor storage facilities and lack of knowledge about gardening. But it can be minimized through collaboration between the ministries of agriculture, education, and health to a school garden program. Integration of a school garden program in a national curriculum ensures sustainability of its activity.

References

Swank, Jacqueline M., and David E. Swank. (2013). Student Growth within the School Garden: Addressing Personal/Social, Academic, and Career Development. Journal of School Counseling, 11(21): 21.





Writer :: Arindam Das, Subha Laxmi Mishra, Sourav Mahapatra      Published on :: 28-Sep-2019


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