Published by City Farmer, Canada's Office of Urban Agriculture


Nutrition and School Gardens

teacher pic

by Ellin McCarthy
Acting Director
Nutrition Branch
B.C. Ministry of Health
From School Garden Guidelines
City Farmer, 1988
(C) Copyright: City Farmer

Nutrition educators are well aware of the need to make nutrition more tangible. Vitamins and minerals are just too abstract. Food gardening is a way to see and touch, smell and taste "nutrition".

If there was only one message I could give about diet, it would be "to eat more fruit and vegetables daily." Why? Because our Canadian diet needs this change in order to help prevent heart disease, cancer, bowel problems, dental disease and obesity.

A rule of thumb for basic nutrition is 5,5,2,2. Five servings of vegetables and fruits, five servings of cereals and breads, two servings* of milk and milk products, two servings of meat, fish, poultry, dried beans, peas, lentils, nuts, seeds. Notice that over twice as many servings are recommended from the first two groups.

Do children like vegetables? Research in children's food preferences indicates that simple exposure to a food will enhance liking. Familiarity tends to increase the perception that a food tastes good. Children also like to eat foods eaten by those they admire. Teachers and fathers are strong models. Peer support is another influencing factor. Children are proud of having grown a garden and they support each other's liking to eat the vegetables, which taste fresh and flavorful.

Teachers have found that children involved in gardening projects are more interested in nutrition and food labels. The garden also provides a link with families who are often influenced by the children to grow food at home!

Nutritionally, a school garden project is a winner!

*2-3 servings for children, 3-4 for teens and pregnants, 2 for adults.

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Revised June 13, 2008

Published by City Farmer
Canada's Office of Urban Agriculture