Getting School Kids Gardening Pays Off for Eating Habits

Engaging school children in gardening and food preparation classes can have a profound impact on their lifelong eating habits, according to a recent study conducted by the George Washington University Milken Institute School of Public Health. Participants in a gardening and food education program, specifically the FoodPrints program offered in 20 elementary schools in Washington, D.C., reported increased confidence in choosing healthy foods and preparing nutritious dishes. The positive habits cultivated during the program persisted as the children grew older and influenced their dietary choices even into adolescence. The study involved focus groups comprised of current and past participants in the FoodPrints program, ranging from pre-kindergarten to ninth grade. Students actively participated in growing vegetables and fruits in school gardens, harvesting produce, and using it to prepare healthy meals.

The program not only enhanced the children’s appreciation for fresh foods but also equipped them with valuable cooking skills and confidence in the kitchen. Importantly, the positive impact extended beyond the students themselves, with parents adopting healthier food options inspired by their children’s newfound preferences and culinary skills. The findings suggest that early exposure to gardening and food education programs can contribute to long-lasting improvements in dietary choices and overall health. The researchers emphasize the potential of such initiatives to instill a lasting desire for fresh, healthy food in young individuals, fostering a positive attitude toward nutrition that persists into adulthood.

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