Gardening has been proven to have the same calming influence on children as it does on adults and leads them into other positive directions like eating fresh food and trying new things.
The ‘What’s Cooking’ study from the Stephanie Alexander Kitchen Garden Foundation – in conjunction with the University of Melbourne and funded by principal partner Medibank – is the first to measure the Foundation’s long-term impact during its 15-year history.
Of the young people who took part in the Program between 2008 and 2010 – now aged 18–23 years – 84% agreed the Program had a positive impact on their lives, with 58% reporting it increased their enjoyment of school.
Feedback from a program participant included:
“I was thinking about it [the Program] and I got bullied a lot at [my school] and I think that that was the only thing that actually kept me going through school and wanting to go to school. I have really my only memories of that school are – the only good memories are at the garden or in the kitchen. That was really cool.”
A positive influence on cooking skills leading into adult life was reported by 75% of those surveyed, an increased respect for fresh and seasonal produce was also noted.
Another participant added:
“I think it was that you would try things that you normally wouldn’t try at home. You were eating vegetables. I know certainly in my household, we weren’t eating vegetables, so it was quite an interesting kind of thing… I’d come home and be like, “Mum, we made these at school,” and she’d be like, “Okay, we can try it.” It did expose me to different food and stuff that I probably wouldn’t be eating if it wasn’t for that.”
Stephanie Alexander Kitchen Garden Foundation CEO Josephene Duffy said: “This research provides further evidence of the positive impact of the Program. The potential of the Program is enormous, and the study points to benefits not just in developing food literacy and positive food behaviours, but also the education and social benefits of the program. We’re very grateful to everyone involved, especially the kitchen garden kids who contributed.”
This is the first study to evaluate the long-term impacts of any primary school kitchen garden program.
University of Melbourne researcher said: “The surveys showed positive trends and those interviewed discussed a range of benefits including increased cooking skills and confidence, with several describing the program as the highlight of their primary school years.”
The full report is HERE.
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