By Karen DuVall
Ask almost any parent and they’ll tell you that it’s a struggle to get their kids to eat vegetables, or even TRY them.
Seriously, just try it… Just a bite. Please… One piece…
It seems like this war has been raging since the dawn of time. Parents and teachers have tried virtually everything to reason, negotiate, and trick their kids into eating something healthy.
Government agencies, nonprofit organizations, and universities have attempted multiple strategies to increase healthy food consumption among children with uneven success. They’ve mounted educational campaigns to share information with parents and children about the nutritional value of fruits and vegetables. They’ve also taken the marketing approach by re-writing popular children’s songs with verses about veggies, and you might remember the controversy around Cookie Monster expanding his culinary palate to include fruit.
But a more down-home solution may exist: getting kids involved in gardening and farming. I was clued into this idea last year while I was catching up with one of my friends over the phone. She mentioned how weird it was that her five-year-old would only eat strawberries from the vines she helped plant. I laughed and thought it was cute, but it turns out that my friend’s daughter isn’t the only one. The research bears this out.
Researchers looked at several studies of garden-based nutrition education programs, and they found that, across the board, gardening increased children’s vegetable consumption.
Kids’ connection to local farms and farmers also shows promise. The USDA Farm-to-School program links local agricultural producers to K-12 schools to supply fresh local produce. The program also encourages school-based gardening in creative ways. Just for example, a school district in Michigan built two mobile greenhouse buses in its community garden.
The Farm-to-School program has shown signs of success. The Journal of Nutrition Education and Behavior did a study on plate waste at six elementary schools to track how much food students were throwing out after their lunches. They found that the kids at schools ate more fruits and vegetables with Farm-to-School procurement from local agriculture, compared to similar schools that did not.
We are grateful for this newfound hope for parents and teachers. All is not lost is the Kids vs. Veggies debate, and Prosperity is here to help. If you are an ag producer, educator, or nonprofit leader who would like more information on funding opportunities for gardening and local foods nutrition programs, we’d love to talk with you! Contact us now and let us know your ideas.