Something our team discovered early on is that the opportunity to grow something good exists nearly everywhere — vacant urban lots, abandoned city golf courses, even old railroad lines. And that’s just where you’ll find Homan Rails Farm, in North Lawndale, Chicago.
Since 2011, Whole Kids Foundation has awarded 5,452 gardens to K-12 schools and nonprofits in the U.S., Canada and the UK — and we’re not stopping there. Our annual September Growing Healthy Kids fundraiser this month is bolstering support for our programs — including our Garden Grant program. Our goal is $3.4 million, which will fund grants for gardens (and salad bars, educational bee hives and healthy teacher trainings too!).
The Power of Plants
We’re working hard with community partners to directly connect kids with the roots of their food, and we’ve found educational gardens to be a very powerful tool. Through our Garden Grant program, schools and nonprofits are turning outdoor spaces into hands-on, nature-based learning environments that not only promote a basic understanding of how to grow food healthily but also how to make nutritious food choices.
Studies show that involvement in a garden significantly increases a student’s nutrition knowledge, willingness to try, and preference for fruit and vegetables, which are all behavior predictors for increased fruit and vegetable intake. So, kids who grow veggies, eat veggies!
Why does this matter? Only 2% of children eat enough fresh fruits and vegetables, and the typical elementary student receives just 3.4 hours of nutrition education each year. However, students who were exposed to a garden increased their fruit and vegetable intake by up to 1.5 servings per day*. Students who are involved in gardens are eating more veggies** and significantly increasing the average number of vegetable varieties they’re consuming, too***.
School gardens can also act as incredible outdoor classrooms and can be easily integrated into classroom curriculum. Check out our 35 school garden lesson plans to see the possibilities!
What Students are Saying
It’s not only the research, but the feedback we receive from Garden Grant recipients that encourage us to award more Garden Grants. Here are a few of our favorites:
"I didn't know I could plant a tiny seed and that a full cucumber would come out of it. It makes me want to eat cucumbers more!"
"It's a lot more fun to learn about plants when I can see them grow in real life."
“If we plant our garden at Castlebridge, then someone will see it and then they will plant a garden. Someone else will see their garden and then the whole world will be covered with gardens."
"When I worked in the garden, I felt like I was part of something important. I was doing good."
“I like the Garden Club because I get to learn about gardening then come home and teach my family about it."
"I love working in the garden and getting my hands dirty. It feels good to see all your hard work actually grow. Plus, it tastes even better than the stores.”
Grow with Us
Interested in making a meaningful impact on local schools and communities? Donate to the Growing Healthy Kids campaign. Or if you’re with a school or nonprofit looking to turn an outdoor space into a powerful hands-on learning opportunity, apply for a Garden Grant. We are accepting garden and beehive grant applications from September 1 to October 15, 2019.
Help us continue to support healthy eating education for kids! Donate today!
*Duncan et al, The impact of a school-based gardening intervention on intentions and behaviour related to fruit and vegetable consumption in children, Coventry University (UK), Journal of Health Psychology, Volume 20 (2015)
**Parmer et al, School Gardens: An Experiential Learning Approach for a Nutrition Education Program to Increase Fruit and Vegetable Knowledge, Preference, and Consumption among Second-grade Students, Auburn University, Journal of Nutrition Education and Behavior, Volume 41 (2009)
***Ratcliffe et al, The Effects of School Garden Experiences on Middle School-Aged Students' Knowledge, Attitudes, and Behaviors Associated with Vegetable Consumption, Tufts University, Health Promotion Practice, Volume 12 (2011)