By Rachel Taylor
School gardens and farm-to-school programs are popping up around the country. Why you ask? Well, it turns out these projects actually have some awesome effects, particularly on kids. Here are a few reasons to fight for farm-to-school and school gardens for every child in America.
1. You Are What You Eat, You Eat What You Grow
Kids who are exposed to gardening and/or farming, either at school or through their communities, tend to have healthier eating habits. Kids participating in farm to school programs have shown an increase from 0.99 servings of fruits and vegetables per day to 1.3 servings. They have also shown increased physical activity and reduced time spent in front of screens (farmtoschool.org). As we all know, old habits die hard, and people are unlikely to radically change their diet or lifestyle when they are older, particularly if it’s all they’ve ever known. Starting young is therefore of the greatest importance. Not only will kids who form these habits early live healthier lives for longer, they are likely to pass those habits on to their children, perpetuating a healthy and sustainable lifestyle.
2. Teach Your Parents Well
Kids who participate in school gardens or farm to school programs are likely to bring their eating habits and discoveries home to their parents. If a kid has a meal at school that is delicious, they are likely to ask their parents to make it for them. If they discover the joy of strawberries or snap peas maybe they’ll ask their parents to buy them at the store. Some farm-to-school programs even have workshops for parents. They teach them how to grocery shop, read nutrition labels, and even cook.
3. “Where Does Food Come From?”….”The Store”…
Our modern food system is dominated by fast food, packaged food, food advertisements and pre-made meals. Fewer and fewer people cook nowadays, and this leads to a lot of ignorance about where our food comes from and how it is grown and produced. Most farming operations in the US are highly concentrated and kept out of sight, except for those who work on them. Kids who participate in school gardens or farm to school programs see first hand how food is grown. In school gardens students plant the seeds, water them, watch them grow, and then get to eat the products. They have an awareness of the process of growing food that is becoming rare, especially among low income and urban youth.
4. No Really…Dirt Is Good For You!
School gardens and farm-to-school programs create a unique environment for social interaction and development. Students have an opportunity to interact and learn outside the confines and structure of a classroom. This leads to increased physical activity, increased self-esteem, better behavior and increased academic achievement. Gardening, therefore, is not a distraction from learning but an enhancement of it. Particularly for kids in under-served, urban areas or kids form troubled homes, gardening has been shown to have great therapeutic value, as well as social and educational value.