Better nutrition = Better learning
Studies show that poor nourishment contributes to reduced brain functioning. Thus, good nutrition means healthy development and increased ability to learn. By participating in the garden at school, young children have increased access to fresh, healthy foods. They eat a variety of veggies and fruits while they’re in the garden, and are introduced to growing them, so there’s a greater chance that they’ll continue to enjoy them. And when garden programs are linked to the lunchroom, there’s opportunity for improved nutrition that can increase students’ energy and enhance their ability to pay attention throughout the school day. For example, at Winchester Public School, fresh produce from the garden is served in the lunchroom salad bar. Kids who might not otherwise enjoy the salad bar are keener to eat the veggies they have grown and harvested themselves. Even having seen the foods growing on the vine familiarizes kids with it in a new way and encourages them to try it.
Our experience over the years has confirmed that children are more likely to eat vegetables that they grew themselves, and picked fresh, than vegetables served to them on their plate. One parent, watching his youngster munching a fresh kale leaf in the garden, commented ‘I couldn’t get her to eat greens for dinner!’.
Research shows that nutrition education linked with garden experience is more effective than classroom lessons about nutrition alone. Teaching about nutrition, even with colourful food group posters and pictures of smiling carrots, when disconnected from the tastes and textures of fresh food, is much less effective compared to the direct, hands-on and fun time children have eating food they grew themselves. In the school gardens we’re sure to include some of the most nutrient-dense foods such as parsley and kale—they’re easy to grow, don’t need full sun, and last late into fall and winter.