Keri Hannekeinen, 4-H Youth Mentor
Interest in food safety and quality, couples with an increased interest in vegetable gardening has resulted in a wide range of gardening throughout Pinellas County. These projects range from community and school gardens to small home garden plots. Some gardens are traditional in the ground plots, while some gardeners are content with a few container grown vegetables. What these gardens have in common are fresh, delicious, and nutritious vegetables. Also, the gardener can control the use of pesticides used in the garden.
There are additional benefits for children and families who garden. Researchers from the American Dietetic Association, the American Journal of Preventive Medicine, the University of Florida, and the University of Colorado, all found similar results. Research has shown three main areas of these benefits: enhanced social skills, healthy habits, and academic progress.
- When third to fifth grade students, participating in a one-year gardening program filled out a survey of life skills, they showed a significant increase in self-understanding, interpersonal relationship skills, and ability to work in groups compared to nonparticipating students (Robinson & Zajicek, 2005)
- Surveys of 52 second and third grade students working in a community garden classroom program in San Antonio revealed that participants were likely to have positive bonding experiences with their parents and other adults (Alexander, North, & Hendren , 1995).
- Children who garden are more accepting of others who are different from themselves (Dyment & Bell, 2006 ) a finding consistent with research that shows community gardening projects “grow” community (Glover, 2004).
- Children are more likely to eat fruits and vegetables. Many children will say they do not like a vegetable because they have never tasted it.
- Students are more likely to try eating vegetables they have grown themselves and to ask for them at home.
- After participating in a school garden program, children were more likely to consume vegetables at home, more willing to ask a family member to purchase vegetables, and more willing to include vegetables as a snack. They are also more likely to continue healthy eating habits throughout their lives. Higher fruit and vegetable consumption in adulthood can help prevent or delay chronic disease conditions over a lifetime.
- According to the Green Institute in Minneapolis, eating locally produced food reduces asthma rates, because children are able to consume manageable amounts of local pollen and develop immunities.
- According to the American Journal of Preventive Medicine, access to places for physical activity with educational resources produced a 48.4 percent increase in frequency of physical activity in addition to a 5.1 percent median increase in aerobic capacity, reduced body fat, weight loss, improved flexibility and an increase in perceived energy. School gardens fit this description.
- Students who are actively engaged in garden projects tend to enjoy learning and show improved attitudes towards education. Third, fourth and fifth grade students who participated in school gardening activities scored significantly higher on science achievement tests than students who did not experience any garden-based learning activities. Parent involvement, shown to enhance student achievement, increases at schools with garden programs
Without a doubt, creating a vegetable garden at your home or at school is one of the best, long-lasting investments one can make for the children and adults in the community.
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