School Gardens – What’s Nutrition Got To Do With It?
Greetings everyone – my name is Meghan and I’m an intern student from the Masters of Health Science in Nutrition Communication program at Ryerson University (whew, that’s a mouthful!). I’ve been asked to write a blog entry from the perspective of someone who focuses on the vital role that GTGK plays in child (or anybody’s!) nutrition. I’m really excited to be sharing this with you today!
I should probably also acknowledge the other, less-than-flattering reaction I get when I tell people about my internship. “But Meghan,” my friends gently inquire, “You don’t have any idea how to garden, do you?” This, I must admit, is the unfortunate truth. When I was about six years old, my mother helped me to plant a small garden in my backyard that contained green beans and cherry tomatoes. This was last time I can remember doing any sort of gardening. Among my peers, this is not uncommon. In fact, I can count on one hand the number of my friends who would describe their gardening experience as anything beyond minimal. This is where an obvious gap lies between children of today and those of previous (healthier?) generations. This, I believe, is where Green Thumbs Growing Kids has the incredible potential to bring gardening back to the life of a child and thereby influence nutritional preferences, choices, and eventual consumption. My six-year-old self ate green beans and cherry tomatoes at every opportunity during that summer I was responsible for my small plot of land that contained them. Today, these vegetables remain some of my very favourites. Coincidence? I think not.
The key here is both exposure and the creation of a connection between a child and the food that they eat. Scientific studies support this, too: providing repeated opportunities to try a variety of fruits and vegetables almost always results in children with a palate for these foods that we assume they don’t like. Most convincing is what I’ve seen in so far during my placement. Students entering the garden will (literally) run to their favourite plants to get a taste. They will often share these favourites with their friends and will curiously investigate other plants in hopes they might find something good to eat. These are the best kinds of observations for someone planning a career in nutrition; in class we often learn about the deteriorating health of today’s society due to poor nutrition, particularly in child populations. Being in the garden, however, allows me to see that we really do have the ability to teach kids about natural, nutritious foods. Green Thumbs Growing Kids’ vision for “a garden in every school” is a very real solution.
Spread the word – together, we can make this happen!