College of DuPage Nursing Student Marline Zuniga asks, “Who said lettuce was just for rabbits? ” Despite the numerous times vegetables and fruits are recommended by physicians, fast food restaurants continue to be first choice amongst many Americans. But what if there was a way to implement healthier options? Some way in which this concept targets not only adults but the younger population as well. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC, 2020), 18.4% percent of children aged 6 to 11 are currently obese. By the time they are teenagers (between 12 and 19 years) the occurrence increases to 20.6%. Overall, childhood obesity increases the risk for obesity in adulthood.
The promotion of healthier meal options is critical in schools and at homes, as these tend to be where children spend most of their time. Although children may learn the importance of healthier meal options at home and school, they may not comply. Aside from listening to a teacher present on the topic of healthy fruits, or their mother requiring them to finish their vegetables at dinner, children are not eating enough fruits and vegetables today.
Gardening is an activity that not only engages children in selecting healthier food options but also expands their knowledge of environmental science as well as promotes physical activity as they tend their garden. Unlike a lecture or worksheet, a garden provides a hands-on learning environment (Let it Grow, 2018). After putting time and dedication to their garden, a child will feel a sense of pride and increases the likelihood of them consuming what they grew. Most children receive about 3.4 hours of nutritional education a year (Let it grow, 2018), making it unrealistic for these concepts to be manifested in their daily diet. The repetition that is required for them to tend to a garden also requires they establish a connection with the content, and this increased exposure to healthy foods each day basis increases the likelihood of consuming them.
Physical activity is required during gardening. The added time spent engaging in physical activity is another positive aspect of gardening. In a generation of youth who spend much time with tablets, TVs, and phones, activity is more essential than ever. Gardening encourages children to be outside for longer periods, participating in outdoor activities. Getting students off the couch can be a difficult task so what better way to motivate them than to have them garden so they can appreciate the nutritional value of food, learn about responsibility, and be active.?
An important factor to consider with daily activity out of doors is repetition. Establishing a schedule for children to be outside tending a garden increases the likelihood they will be consistent. A sense of responsibility is instilled which ultimately results in consistent daily physical activity. As a whole, students who engage in increased quantities of physical activity have better grades, standardized test scores, and better classroom behavior (CDC, 2020).
Implementing a garden has multiple benefits for children. It expands their knowledge of good nutrition with the added benefit of increasing their consumption of vegetables and fruits. It promotes physical activity into their daily schedule since it is required to care for a garden, and their overall health is positively impacted from engaging in the hands-on activity. Gardening is not only useful to children but provides similar benefits to all individuals, regardless of age. After all, what better reward is there than biting into fresh, homegrown fruit or veggie?
Promoting health for Children and Adolescents (2020, October 1). Center for Disease Control and Prevention. https://www.cdc.gov/chronicdisease/resources/publications/factsheets/children-health.htm
Let it grow. (2018, July 31). Harvard Graduate School of education. https://www.gse.harvard.edu/news/uk/18/07/let-it-grow