The benefits of gardening programs in schools are numerous and varied. Gardening programs provide education and outreach to build school and community awareness of local foods and encourage consumption of fruits and vegetables through gardening.
In addition to gardens, schools can partner with local farmers, and encourage the consumption of local produce to gain a better knowledge of farming, healthy eating, local foods and seasonality. Here are a few Policy, System and Environmental (PSE) change examples to demonstrate Gardening for Nutrition Programming:
- Highlight your gardening initiatives at Back to School Night events.
- Observe Maryland Homegrown School Lunch Week in September.
- Celebrate National Farm to School month in October.
- Kickoff your spring garden during National Gardening Month in April.
- Share recipes and information about foods the students taste with the parents.
- Visit the cafeteria and talk to the staff about local foods they receive and use.
- Plan a field trip to a farmers’ market. Have the students list all the fruits and vegetables available and indicate any they have never tried/seen before.
- Watch a video of a trip to a farmer’s market if you can’t go in person.
- Create a scavenger hunt for students to encourage learning more about local fruits and vegetables that are available at the market.
- Ask the students to share family recipes using local produce.
- Taste one local, seasonal fruit or vegetable each month.
- Give extra credit to students who visit a Farmers’ Market on the weekend.
- Educate students using classroom and school gardens. They will learn how to grow and harvest their own fruits and vegetables.
- Foods from the garden prepared in the classroom as part of a science lesson demonstrate both the life cycle and nutritional value of fruits and vegetables.
- A garden is a “hands on” way to show were food comes from and how it grows.
- Connect with the student ambassadors or “farmers” of your school garden. Schedule a tour for your class. If possible, harvest items from your school garden and taste them.
- Order free seed catalogs, taste test vegetables before you purchase the seeds. Then plant the seeds in your garden and watch them grow.
- Visit http://www.humeseeds.com/free1.htm and http://www.americainbloom.org/resources/grant-opportunities.aspx to look for resources for free seeds.
- Ask local garden centers for seed donations.
- Check the internet for grants that might fund your school garden. Kidsgardening.org or www.farmtoschool.org are two possible sources of information.
- Visit marylandsbest.net or contact your local University of Maryland Extension office for a list of farmers who may be interested in participating in classroom programs or speaking to your students in person or virtually.
- FSNE Farmer Visit Checklist
- Ask them to bring samples or photos with them to share with the class.
- Be sure to keep them updated on your programs.
- Send them a thank you note so they feel appreciated.
- Plan a field trip to a local farm.
- Map the local farms in the area. Learn what they grow.
- Investigate the top crops of your county. Make a chart and include photos and growing season for each. A great website to reference is net
The Growing Healthy Habits Curriculum was developed by the University of Maryland Extension, Food Supplement Nutrition Education Program (FSNE) for integrating nutrition through gardening in Maryland elementary classrooms, grades K-5. This curriculum uses gardening as a tool for encouraging students to consume more fruits and vegetables and whole grains, and increase physically activity.