When they grow it, they will eat it! This was the story of the Lincoln and Jackson Parish students that participated in the school gardens. Students participated in hands-on SNAP-Ed learning activities that excited them to try new and different vegetables. The hands-on approach enhanced the students learning. Students learned the importance of eating a variety of vegetables. They also learned how these foods help prevent heart disease, diabetes, high blood pressure, and other chronic diseases.
Research has provided information affirming youth are not eating adequate amounts of fruits and vegetables. Louisiana ranks second in the nation for obesity.
Research shows overweight children are 80 percent more likely to be overweight or obesity adults. Overweight or obese people have higher risk factors for heart disease, high blood pressure, diabetes, and other health related illness.
The LSU AgCenter received local grants from Lincoln Health Foundation and Jonesboro State Bank Pledge 10 to build school gardens in Lincoln and Jackson Parishes. Students participated in hands-on opportunities including building gardens, planting, maintaining, and harvesting vegetables. For seven months students participated in a garden and nutrition lessons provided by the nutrition agent with the LSU AgCenter. Students learned the nutritional value of vegetables, how to store and wash them. Students had an opportunity to try a vegetable sample during each lesson. Before trying the sample, students were asked to raise their hand if they had never eaten the vegetable. Only a few students had eaten kale and sugar snap peas. After sampling, students were asked to raise their hand if they liked the vegetable. Only two or three students in the fourteen classes taught did not raise their hands. Many students asked for seconds! Volunteer parents and teachers assisted with the school gardens. School Gardens are in the school’s courtyards for visibility. All students at the schools can see the vegetables growing in courtyards. Many students expressed they wished they were participating in the school garden.
503 Kindergarten through fifth grade students participated in the school garden program; following is the outcomes that resulted in their participation:
- Students planted 15 gardens of cold weather crops: kale, broccoli, carrots, cabbage, lettuce, celery, potatoes, cauliflower, and radishes.
- Students tasted kale in a fruit, milk, orange juice smoothie.
- Students learned parts of the plants we eat by eating cabbage (leaf), broccoli (flower), sugar snap peas (seed), carrot (root), and celery (stalk).
- Students ate sweet potatoes steamed with nothing added, then with a little cinnamon and sugar. Cinnamon sugar was the preferred way to eat the sweet potato.
- Students ate fresh blueberries and learned the nutritional value.
- Students learned the nutritional properties of potatoes and sampled steamed sweet potatoes.
- Students increased their consumption of new vegetables. Before our lesson students told me what vegetables they ate in the cafeteria, they were excited to share this information.
- Students learned how use and select food using the MyPlate model.
- Students learned nutritional benefits of the vegetables, how different colors of vegetables provide different vitamins and minerals.
- Students reported making some of the recipes given them at home.
- Students learned gardening is a form of physical activity.
- Students learned different ways to cook vegetables grown in their school garden.
- Students learned teamwork and social skills working in the garden together.
- Teachers stated that the lessons enhanced student’s science lessons.
- Students learned how deep and how far apart to plant seeds and seedlings.
- Students learned how to use garden tools safely.
Teachers and parents collaborated which greatly helped with the success of the school garden program. Sponsorship from Pledge 10 and Lincoln Health Foundation has made the project possible. Sponsorship paid for building materials, gardens, soil, seeds, and demonstration supplies. Several parents volunteered to assist the students with planting and weeding their gardens. Volunteers are the success of the school garden. More volunteers are needed in order for the project to continue. Students that participated in the school garden learned life skills that will serve them well later in life. The nutrition demonstrations and food samples taught students how to make healthy food choices that in the end will lead to healthy lifestyles.