Making a Difference:
Garden Education: Research and Impact

There are several “school garden programs” available. BUT none of the competitive programs offer both an indoor classroom garden component with a correlated and comprehensive Teacher Guide, which contains 25 lesson plans that are science standards-based. Veggie U teaches children in an engaging, experiential way, providing the best opportunity and methods to reinforce the importance of making wise food choices and empowering children to positively affect their own health and wellness.

Researchers at Oregon State University conducted a meta-analysis of published studies and found that nutrition education programs with a gardening component will increase vegetable consumption in children. Conversely, education programs without a hands-on gardening component will not influence a behavior change or increase vegetable consumption.

We then request completion of the same survey at the end of the 5-week program in order to quantify any attitude or behavior change. The VeggieTudes survey offers students three response choices regarding their attitude toward vegetables and healthy eating – never, sometimes, often. The “most positive” answer response refers to choosing “often” as it applies to making healthful eating choices.

Growing Mids: The Effect of a School Gardening Program on the Science Achievement of Elementary Students.
(Klemmer, Waliczek, & Zajicek, 2005).
Science achievement of third, fourth, and fifth grade elementary students was studied using a sample of 647 students from seven elementary schools in Temple, Texas. Students in the experimental group participated in school gardening activities as part of their science curriculum in addition to using traditional classroom-based methods. In contrast, students in the control group were taught science using traditional classroom-based methods only. Students in the experimental group scored significantly higher on the science achievement test compared to the students in the control group. Read more...  

Diet Quality and Academic Performance.
(Florence MD et al., 2008; Fu ML et al., 2007; Kim HY et al., 2003; Sigfúsdóttir et al., 2007).
Children with healthful eating patterns tend to do better in school. These findings demonstrate an association between diet quality and academic performance and identify specific dietary factors that contribute to this association. Additionally, this research supports the broader implementation and investment in effective school nutrition programs that have the potential to improve student access to healthy food choices, diet quality, academic performance, and, over the long term, health. Read more...

Gardening Increases Vegetable Consumption in School-aged Children: A Meta-Analytical Synthesis.
(Langellotto, Gupta, 2012).
Meta-analytical techniques examine the efficacy of garden-based nutrition education programs for increasing children’s nutrition knowledge, preference for fruit and vegetables, and/or consumption of fruit and vegetables. One striking and robust result emerged: gardening increased vegetable consumption in children, whereas the impacts of traditional nutrition education programs were marginal. Two nonmutually exclusive hypotheses explain these results: gardening increases access to vegetables and gardening decreases children’s reluctance to try new foods. These results suggest that gardening should be an integral component of wellness programs and policies. Read more...

Impact of Garden-Based Learning on Academic Outcomes in Schools
Synthesis of Research Between 1990 and 2010.
(Dilafruz R. Williams; P. Scott Dixon, 2013)
What is the impact of garden-based learning on academic outcomes in schools? To address this question, findings across 152 articles (1990–2010) were analyzed resulting in 48 studies that met the inclusion criteria for this synthesis. The synthesis results showed a preponderance of positive impacts on direct academic outcomes with the highest positive impact for science followed by math and language arts. Indirect academic outcomes were also measured with social development surfacing most frequently and positively. Read more...

Effectiveness of School Programs in Preventing Childhood Obesity: A Multilivel Comparison.
(Paul J. Veugelers, PhD and Angela L. Fitzgerald, MSc, 2005)
In light of the alarming increase in childhood obesity and lack of evidence for the effectiveness of school programs, the effects of school programs were studied in regard to preventing excess body weight. Students from schools participating in a coordinated program that incorporated recommendations for school-based healthy eating programs exhibited significantly lower rates of overweight and obesity, had healthier diets, and reported more physical activities than students from schools without nutrition programs. Findings show that school programs are effective in preventing childhood obesity, supporting the need for broader implementation of successful programs towill reduce childhood obesity and, in the longer term, comorbid conditions and health care spending. Read more...

Learning to Eat Vegetables in Early Life: The Role of Timing, Age and Individual Eating Traits
(Caton SJ, Blundell P, Ahern SM, Nekitsing C, Olsen A, et al, 2014)
A study conducted by researchers at the University of Leeds found that young children can, in fact, learn to like vegetables. During the experiment, each of the 332 children (aged between 4 and 38 months old) was given between 5 and 10 “exposures to a novel vegetable”—i.e., fed one of three variants of artichoke puree: basic, sweetened or “added energy” (added vegetable oil). By the end of the experiment, one in five of the children cleared their plates, while two in five had learned to like artichokes. The researchers also found that sweetening vegetables didn’t have a significant effect on how much children ate as compared to their consumption of the basic puree. Read more...