Kitchen Gardens: school program gets results
A team of researchers from Deakin and Melbourne universities have found that children involved in the Stephanie Alexander Kitchen Garden Program show clear changes in attitude, knowledge, skills and confidence in relation to cooking and gardening.
The program, which operates in 139 schools around Australia, helps primary schools set up a kitchen garden, allowing children to grow their own fruit, vegetables and herbs. Kitchen classes encourage students to use the produce to create dishes and learn cooking skills.
By comparing children at non-participating schools with children at the Kitchen Garden schools, researchers were able to see the impact of the program. Key findings included increased willingness to try new foods, great enjoyment of kitchen classes and cooking in general, and flow-on effects in the home environment. The program has also been successful in engaging ‘non-academic learners’ and children with challenging behaviours.
While the participating schools showed an increase in food literacy, the comparison schools also showed an increase – suggesting that food literacy in Australia is generally on the rise among primary-school aged children.
The researchers also reported one particularly valued outcome of the program – children’s competent use of knives in the kitchen, which was valued by all involved as both evidence of skill and a symbol of trust.
While government funding is covering part of the program, the researchers also found that for ever dollar coming from the government, participating schools were generating almost $2 for the program.