Berkeley Study Shows School Gardening Curriculum Makes Kids Healthier

A new study out of UC Berkeley examined the benefits of the Edible Schoolyard program in the Berkeley Unified School District and the results are in. The program formally known as the School Lunch Initiative (SLI) led to substantial health and lifestyle benefits to children, but did not necessarily improve academic performance.

The study compared two categories of school lunch programs. According to the executive summary;

Schools with highly developed School Lunch Initiative components offered cooking and garden classes integrated with selected classroom lessons along with improvements in school food and the dining environment.

Schools with lesser-developed School Lunch Initiative components primarily focused on launching the district-wide improvement in school food, but did not offer regular cooking and garden classes integrated with selected classroom lessons.

Sarah Henry at the Atlantic has the run down of the benefits for students in the highly developed SLI.

• Increased nutritional knowledge among 4th and 7th graders who were fed a steady stream of gardening and cooking curriculum.

    • Higher fruit and vegetable consumption among elementary-age students in schools with more SLI components than in students at schools with less-developed SLI offerings, including a preference for leafy greens like kale, spinach, and chard.

    • Vegetable intake was almost one serving per day greater in the schools with a beefed-up food curriculum, and combined fruit and vegetable consumption increased by 1.5 servings. About 80 percent of this increase came from in-season produce. In comparison, researchers found a nearly quarter-serving drop in produce intake among other students.

    • More positive attitudes about the taste and health value of school lunch in students in more highly developed SLI programs than those in lesser-developed SLI schools.

    • Small increases in produce consumption occurred among middle-schoolers with higher exposure to nutrition education as opposed to a drop in fruit and vegetable intake by about one serving a day among students in the other group.

    • There were no detectable differences in academic test scores or body mass index based on differences in SLI exposure.

This study comes out at the same time the Center of Disease Control and Prevention reports that Americans are no eating enought veggies.