AUSTIN, Texas — Getting children to eat their vegetables can seem like an insurmountable task, but nutrition researchers at The University of Texas at Austin have found one way: school gardens and lessons on using what’s grown in them.
Researchers worked with 16 elementary schools across Central Texas to install vegetable gardens and teach classes to students and parents about nutrition and cooking. In a study recently published in the International Journal for Behavioral Nutrition and Physical Activity, the team describes specifically targeting schools with a high percentage of students on the free and reduced-price lunch program to understand how nutrition programs affect low-income groups. Each school was studied for one academic year.
The study found that students who participated in the gardening, nutrition and cooking classes ate, on average, a half serving more vegetables per day than they did before the program.
“A lot of the families in these schools live with food insecurity. They live in food deserts and face a higher risk of childhood obesity and related health issues,” said Jaimie Davis, associate professor of nutritional sciences at UT Austin and the lead author of the paper. “Teaching kids where their food comes from, how to grow it, how to prepare it — that’s key to changing eating behaviors over the long term.”
In addition to tracking what the children ate, the study looked at weight, body mass index and blood pressure….