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Kids who garden eat more veggies
Garden with kids, and they'll eat better

Date published: 4/29/2007

WE ALL know picky eaters: a child who eats only hot dogs for months at a time, another who shrieks if anything green touches her plate. The stories go on and on.

It can be challenging to get children to eat enough fruits and vegetables. But maybe we haven't been encouraging them in the right way.

Children who garden at home or school enjoy more fruits and vegetables, according to two recent reports in the Journal of the American Dietetic Association.

That's good news, because most children (and adults) fall woefully short of the recommended five to nine palm-sized portions of fruits and veggies per day. That's the amount experts recommend to protect the heart and reduce risks of diabetes and cancer.

The research about gardening provides inexpensive ideas that can be used around the country, both in schools and at home, in the country and the city.

Now is the perfect time to think about planting a garden.

good eating blooms

In Idaho, sixth-graders who participated in a school garden project for 12 weeks as part of their class work ate double the amount of fruits and vegetables daily after the project was completed. They weren't just eating the literal fruits of their labor, but were apparently also choosing more fruits and vegetables at home and in restaurants.

Their school garden plot was 25 feet square and had strawberries, herbs and fall crops such as potatoes, corn, peas, squash, cantaloupe, broccoli, tomatoes and spinach.

The children helped plant, weed, water and harvest from the garden. They learned to make salsa and did other activities from the book "Nutrition in the Garden."

There are 1,100 school gardens around the country. You can read more details about school garden curriculums at the nonprofit National Gardening Association's site, kidsgardening .com.

The school garden ideas are engaging: science lessons about pollination, environmental lessons about water-wise gardening, social-studies lessons on foods and culture, English lessons on garden-inspired poetry, not to mention nutrition lessons.

Schools and communities can order large amounts of free seeds from the America the Beautiful Fund, online at america-the-beautiful.org, although there is a shipping and handling charge.

bringing it home

Gardening at home is just as good as gardening at school.

A survey in rural Missouri showed that preschool children enjoyed eating a greater variety of fruits and vegetables if their families had a garden.

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