Some of my fondest memories of my childhood are days spent in the sun with my mother, working in my own little patch of garden - planting, harvesting, watering. Teaching children how to grow vegetables for themselves and for their families can have a positive impact on their diets. If you are working with children and are looking for materials to help you implement a gardening program that will provide tangible benefits for your students, the two publications below would be the perfect place to start. Click on the names of the publications to download the pdf documents. The UWEX is involved in both projects.
From the preface -
Childhood obesity and its health related consequences are increasing in Wisconsin’s youth. Nutrition research supports the role of increased fruit and vegetable consumption for prevention of cancer, heart disease, and obesity. 1 Thus, youth gardens could emerge as an important tool for nutrition and wellness in public health interventions. Recent research has documented that
involving children in gardening is a promising strategy for increasing fruit and vegetable consumption. 2 School gardens may positively impact children’s food choices by improving their preferences for vegetables and increasing their nutrition knowledge. 2 Furthermore, gardening is a wonderful means of increasing physical activity. A 130-pound person can burn around 295-calories an hour while gardening. Similarly, a 150-pound person can burn around 300-calories an hour. Thus, to encourage healthy eating and increased physical activity, the Department of Health Services’ Nutrition, Physical Activity & Obesity Program produced this garden toolkit. To ensure the inclusion of accurate gardening information, several gardening experts from around the state contributed or reviewed the Got Dirt? Garden Toolkit including University of Wisconsin Extension Horticulture Agents and Community Garden Coordinators, Master Gardeners, and other local gardening experts.
This toolkit is a component of the Got Dirt? Garden Initiative. The Got Dirt? Garden Initiative also includes:
• Hands-on trainings on how to start a youth garden
• Ancillary resources for starting a youth garden
• Lesson plans and activities for use with the youth garden
• Connection to local gardening expertise/Master Gardeners
The purpose of the Got Dirt? Garden Initiative is to improve access to fresh fruits and vegetables through increasing the implementation of youth fruit and vegetable gardens in Wisconsin. The overall health outcome of the Got Dirt? Garden Initiative is to increase consumption of fruits and vegetables among children, adolescents, and adults. Moreover, by encouraging you to start a garden, the toolkit attempts to support a number of the following national and state initiatives:
• Fruits & Veggies—More Matters® : A national initiative, Fruits & Veggies —More Matters®, seeks to provide a consistent message regarding the importance of eating fruits and vegetables. Fruits and veggies matter in maintaining a healthy weight and may reduce the risk of many diseases. Eating a colorful variety of fruits and veggies provides a wider range of valuable nutrients like fiber, vitamins, and potassium. Incorporating the produce from the garden into meals and snacks are wonderful ways to increase the amount and variety of fruits and vegetables eaten each day. For more information, visit: www.fruitsandveggiesmorematters.gov.
• Wisconsin Nutrition, Physical Activity & Obesity Program: The Program seeks to encourage healthful eating and increased physical activity as a means for reducing overweight and obesity in Wisconsin. Currently, 62% of Wisconsin adults are considered overweight or obese and 25% of high school students are overweight or obese. 3,4 Furthermore, only 18% of high school students and 24% of adults in Wisconsin consume fruits and vegetables 5 or more times per day. 3,4 Thus, the Program focuses on developing resources, providing technical assistance, 2 and working with partners to create environments through policy and environmental change that support individuals in their quest to eat healthy and be physically active.
• Wisconsin Farm-to-School AmeriCorps Program: The Wisconsin Department of Agriculture, Trade, and Consumer Protection in partnership with the Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction, Wisconsin Department of Health Services, Wisconsin Rural Partners, and the Center for Integrated Agricultural Systems received an AmeriCorps State Grant to support a statewide Farm-to-School AmeriCorps Program. The goal of the Wisconsin Farm-to-School AmeriCorps Program is to increase access to locally produced foods (including fruits and vegetables) in Wisconsin schools. Farm-to-School is a potential approach to reducing childhood obesity by promoting healthy eating habits, while increasing access to local foods in schools, and while creating another market for local farmers and other food businesses.
• Wisconsin Fresh Fruit and Vegetable Program: Funded through the 2008 Farm Bill, the Wisconsin Fresh Fruit and Vegetable Program provides free fresh fruits and vegetables to children of participating elementary schools. The purpose of the program is to expand and increase the variety and amount of fruits and vegetables children experience and consume.
Combined with nutrition education and a reinforcement of healthful eating habits, the program emphasizes the long-term goals of positively influencing children’s life-long eating habits, specifically fruit and vegetable consumption. This program also encourages schools to reach
out to area farmers/growers for purchasing local fresh whole produce.
For more information, visit: www.dpi.wi.gov/fns/ffvp.html
• Wisconsin Food Security Consortium: The Wisconsin Food Security Consortium, representing diverse sectors in the fight against hunger, is dedicated to the elimination of food insecurity in Wisconsin. From 1996 to 2000, almost 9% of Wisconsin households were food insecure. 5 A household that is food insecure is one that has uncertain or limited access to food. The Wisconsin Food Security Consortium’s State Plan, titled Ending Hunger in Wisconsin — An Action Plan, includes goals related to improving access to healthy and affordable food. A bountiful garden’s produce can be donated to local food pantries or other public and private programs working to eliminate food insecurity in Wisconsin. For more information on the Wisconsin Food Security Consortium, visit, www.endhungerwi.org. In addition to these initiatives, several new approaches to increasing fruit and vegetable consumption are currently being piloted. Creating and supporting youth gardens is a way to work towards improving the health of all Wisconsin
1. US Department of Health and Human Services, Healthy People 2010: Conference Edition Vol I, 2000.
2. Graham H, Lane-Beall D, Lussier M, McLaughlin P, Zidenberg-Cherr S. Use of School Gardens in Academic
Instruction. J Nutr Educ Behav. 2005;37:147-151
3. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System. www.cdc.gov/brfss.
4. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Youth Risk Behavior Surveillance System.
5. University of Wisconsin-Extension. Wisconsin Food Security Project. www.uwex.edu/ces/flp/cfs/
From the foreword by Aaron Carrel, M.D., Medical Director, University of Wisconsin Pediatric Fitness Clinic
I am thrilled to present Got Veggies?, a curriculum that combines the fun of gardening with nutrition education. Along with my partners at Community GroundWorks at Troy Gardens, Wisconsin Home Grown Lunch, University of Wisconsin-Cooperative Extension, and the Wisconsin Departments of Health Services and Public Instruction, I hope this inspires students, early childhood providers, and teachers. Got Veggies? is a wonderful way to engage children (and adults) in actively taking control of their own health. As a pediatrician specializing in
childhood obesity, I am confronted every day with the challenge of helping children keep their bodies strong and healthy. Consistent eating of vegetables and fruits has been shown to decrease obesity, heart disease and some cancers. Healthy eating habits need to start young, and be reinforced through peers, mentors, teachers, and parents.
This resource is part of the Got Dirt? Garden Initiative which seeks to provide practical resources for starting youth gardens —which can be used as a place to educate, provide
opportunities for physical activity, acquire a useful skill, and have lots of fun! Nutrition education combined with gardening is an effective way to increase knowledge of fruits and vegetables, as well as reinforce teachers’ and students’ exposure to gardens as part of the academic curriculum. I hope Got Veggies? will further inspire the creation and use of youth gardens, and nurture a love for fresh fruits and vegetables.
Got Veggies? has been a collaborative effort, and the hard work of many partners has been essential to this project. Just as in the tilling, planting, weeding and harvesting of an actual garden, a group effort brings the best results.