It may seem like a no-brainer, but there's finally cold hard proof that students who grow, pick and cook their own food wind up making healthier food choices.
Since 1995, famed Chez Panisse chef Alice Waters has been helping students in the Berkeley Public Schools grow their own produce.
From humble beginnings as a one-acre plot at Martin Luther King Middle School, the Edible Schoolyard program has grown into a school garden and kitchen classroom hybrid.
At King, 1,000 students pass through the Edible Schoolyard each year, and there are affiliate programs from New Orleans to Los Angeles.
While school gardening is a great idea, it can cost a lot of money to implement.
So is it worthwhile for belt-tightening administrators to earmark the cash?
Turns out, if raising healthier students is a priority, then the answer is yes:
Over three years, from the fall of 2005 till spring 2009, University of California at Berkeley researchers followed 238 students and determined that a combination of healthful food at school, gardening and culinary education increased students’ nutrition knowledge and broadened their taste for and consumption of fruits and vegetables.
"We realized we needed to present numbers and facts to support what is so clear to us from our experience working in the Edible Schoolyard and through the transformation of school lunch in Berkeley," Waters says. "We knew validation of the work was important in order to reach a wider public. This is one of our first steps in reaching new audiences—particularly the scientific and academic community—and of course we hope it has implications for public policy."
Waters isn't the only force to be reckoned with in the school gardening movement.
An organization called The Teaching Garden is trying to replicate Waters's success in Southern California schools. Based in Los Angeles, they've gotten a few celebrity supporters, like Cat Cora, Gabby Reece, and Tobey Maguire to help spread the gospel of school gardening.
Photo: DC Central Kitchen/Creative Commons via Flickr