Plant a seed, grow a garden, change a life!
School gardens are cropping up all over the world
‘‘—the first 1000 days are a critical window in a child’s development, but let’s not forget this child on day 1,001.’’ School nutrition programmes help to address the +1,001 day gap.
Today, perceptions of school gardens are changing in response to increasingly urgent needs for greater food security, environmental protection, more secure livelihoods and better nutrition. School gardens have new multiple roles to play.
Some roles which are gaining prominence are the promotion of good diet, the development of livelihood skills, and environmental awareness. The belief is that school gardens can become a seed ground for a nation’s health and security; this idea is increasingly backed up by experience and research. The questions are: how much can be achieved, and how best to go about the task?
Growing food for better eating
For people considering the introduction of school gardens, here is some advice from FAO:
- Make nutrition the main consideration in selecting crops.
- Aim to improve existing meals and snacks, rather than introducing completely new ones.
- Start with a few micronutrient-rich foods, such as dark green leafy vegetables (the cheapest source of vitamin A), guava, mango, berries, sweet potatoes. Foods with high fat content (e.g. peanuts, avocado, seeds) enhance absorption of vitamin A.
- Grow foods favoured by children (e.g. pumpkin, papaya).
- Choose hardy crops that need little time or knowledge to grow and process.
- Dry fruits and vegetables in the sun. They keep their food value for up to 6 months this way.
- Steam vegetables instead of boiling them.
- ‘Hide’ dark green leaves in omelettes, sauces and soups to make them more acceptable to children.
- Involve children in all of the processes described above.