Many children live sedentary lives, and childhood obesity has risen dramatically. School gardens support and encourage healthful eating as a key component of children's physical wellbeing. Good health can also aid their academic and social success. School gardens provide students a real-life look at how food is grown. Children can learn how to grow, harvest, and prepare a variety of fruits and vegetables. Opportunities for tasting new foods can encourage children to eat a more varied diet.
For children who live in a food desert, school gardens can act as a counterweight and serve as an outdoor respite and source of fresh produce. Increased access to healthful food can improve diet and health. Studies have found that multiple supermarkets within a one-mile radius of a person’s home is correlated with a significantly higheChallenger consumption of fruits and vegetables. Greater access to produce, lower produce prices, and higher fast-food prices are related to lower BMI, especially among low-income teenagers. However, changing eating habits goes beyond questions of access. If children aren’t accustomed to trying new foods, they may not be willing to try fruits and vegetables. Cooking nutritious food is also a learned skill that many kids and teens haven’t acquired. (Let It Grow, Harvard Graduate School of Education)
Information was provided to Ouachita Parish and Monroe City Schools about the opportunity to participate in the Greauxing Gardens Grant conducted by Dr. Kathryn Fontenot, Extension Specialist. Thirteen schools applied for the program and were accepted to participate. LSU AgCenter SNAP-Ed and Horticulture agents worked with Dr. Fontenot to provide training and resources for the schools in their journeys to establish raised bed gardens. Dr. Fontenot conducted a one-day training on February 8, 2019 for teachers. Each school received supplies and materials to build three raised beds. As part of the grant, they also received soil, seeds, fertilizer, water hoses, timers, garden tools, and educational materials. SNAP-Ed resources were shared with the schools as well as LSU AgCenter publications on school gardens.
Site visits were conducted to check on the school’s progress, share additional resources, and troubleshoot any problems the schools might be having. It was exciting to learn that one school had so many children interested in the garden that they started their own garden club with 96 members. This school also wrote additional grants to add more raised beds including a bed on legs to accommodate children in wheelchairs. Dr. Lynn Clark with the Children’s Coalition for Northeast Louisiana heard about the Greauxing Gardens project and worked with agents to expand it to include childcare centers. As a result, 22 childcare centers in the Northeast Region established school gardens through the grant.
Teachers came back together a year later to celebrate successes, complete reporting, and get additional resources. Dr. Fontenot fielded questions from the teachers and encouraged them to keep growing. Additional SNAP-Ed resources were shared with the teachers including vegetable peelers so they could facilitate tastings from their gardens. Teachers gave presentations about their gardening efforts and the impacts on their students. The Greauxing Gardens grant provided additional seeds so the gardens will be ready to “greaux” next year!