Program description

Gardening is a popular pastime that can be shared by people of all ages. Children and their families can often enjoy this creative and fun activity in their own backyard. Growing fruits and vegetables in a home or a school garden provides an environment where nutrition and plant science skills can be taught. The Eating From the Garden curriculum can be used to reinforce these lessons and skills, while also providing hands-on education.

School gardens have been expanding nationwide, which shows a willingness of children to taste and consume more fruits and vegetables. This is important because poor food choices and inadequate physical activity are contributing factors in today’s obesity and health issues among youth. Most children do not eat the recommended amount of fruits and vegetables in their daily diets. The formative childhood years are an ideal time to promote healthy eating habits. Children can be encouraged to taste new foods and adopt healthier eating habits when growing fruits and vegetables in an outdoor garden. These early efforts to increase physical activity and consume foods containing essential vitamins and minerals may continue into teenage and adult years.

Gardening offers youth opportunities to cross barriers of ethnicity, age and gender. Children learn to take great pride in their efforts and give back to the community. School gardening may create self-esteem, help students develop a sense of responsibility and ownership, increase test scores, foster relationships with family members, and increase parental involvement. Children have the ability to positively influence their families. If parents are educated about gardening and growing healthy, nutritious fruits and vegetables, families are more likely to improve the daily intake of healthy and nutritious foods.

Gardening provides students an opportunity to become part of an outdoor classroom and play in the dirt. So dig in and help children improve their health while eating from the garden.

Program objectives

Increase consumption of fruits and vegetables
Children will taste fruits and vegetables grown in their gardens and be introduced to others they may have never tasted.

Improve nutritional habits
Children will taste a variety of vegetables and fruits, explore MyPlate, learn about important nutrients and habits for healthy eating, and be introduced to basic food safety and food handling practices.

Improve understanding of plant science
Through classroom lessons and activities, children will learn basic plant science concepts.

Develop indoor and outdoor gardening skills
Children will propagate plants indoors using a greenhouse, grow lights and sunny windowsills. They will also plant and maintain outdoor vegetable gardens through harvest.

Increase environmental awareness
Children will experience how gardens and people fit into the natural environment. They will learn to compost, identify garden insects and diseases, and observe seasonal changes.