- Author: Chelsey LeeAnn Slattery
Data from 2015-16 show that nearly 1 in 5 children (ages 6 to 19) in the United States are obese. When you ask a young child where food comes from, they usually answer, “the store”, and that is a problem. Now, more than ever, we need to educate children where food comes from and gardening may be just the way to do that. Gardening provides high to moderate physical activity for children and research shows that when children experience growing food in the outdoors, they are much more likely to taste it and enjoy it. Growing food also teaches children where their food comes from and helps bridge the gap between farm to table. Having this connection allows children to develop a healthy relationship with food and to appreciate and respect that food is not indispensable.
What Has ANR Done
In 2018, the Butte County UC CalFresh Nutrition Education Program partnered with Butte County's UC Master Gardener Program to extend garden enhanced nutrition education and technical assistance to 17 Butte County classrooms, reaching over 400 students, their families, and school staff. In 2019, this partnership was replicated in Sutter County through the implementation of a UC Garden Curriculum Training for community volunteers, followed by the implementation of two series-based, garden enhanced nutrition education lesson series that were implemented at the Artisan Community Garden in Yuba City, CA. Lessons topics were adapted from the Teams With Inter-Generational (TWIGS) curriculum. TWIGS lesson topics focus on gardening and how the foods we grow are used in our bodies as building blocks and energy providers.
The Payoff: Garden enhanced nutrition education increases youth's confidence and interest in gardening!
After participating in four series-based, garden enhanced nutrition education lessons at the Artisan Community Garden, parents of youth participants were invited to take a survey. There were a total of 28 families with 45 youth (ages 5-13) who participated in the lessons. Of the parents that responded (n=15), 100% reported that their child's interest in gardening had increased, 90% reported that their child's confidence to garden had increased, and 70%% of those that had reported not having a garden at home prior to attending the lessons reported that their child is now interested in starting a garden at home. Additionally, 100% of respondents said they would recommend participating in these lessons. Youth shared some of their favorite things about participating in the lesson series which included, learning about aphids, learning about plants and soil, making dirt, and trying all the different types of fresh vegetables. Gardening with children not only increases interest, but also increases participation in physical activity and willingness to try new foods, which may ultimately contribute to a reduction in childhood obesity.
Chelsey L. Slattery, Nutrition, Family & Consumer Sciences Advisor serving Butte, Colusa, Glenn, Sutter, & Yuba Counties, firstname.lastname@example.org