Do your kids turn their noses up at the vegetables you serve up at the dinner table? If the answer’s yes, then getting them to grow their own could help them connect with their food and develop their tastebuds.
We all know that getting kids to eat their five-a-day can sometimes be a real struggle. Research from the Future Foundation published last year found that 90% of 7-14 year olds do not eat the recommended daily intake of fruit and veg. In fact, despite claiming they know what constitutes a healthy diet, over half the children interviewed thought potatoes were one of their five-a-day, 16% thought orange squash amounted to one portion and one in 10 thought carrot cake and ketchup counted.
Do not despair. A packet of seeds could hold the answer to getting your children to eat more greens (and reds, yellows and oranges, for that matter). Numerous studies and anecdotal evidence from parents add clout to the idea that getting children involved with growing vegetables could transform their attitude to eating them.
Getting Schools Involved
One such study, by the Royal Horticultural Society (RHS) in 2010, found that children whose schools grow fruit and vegetables eat one and a half more servings of fruit and vegetables a day than other school children. The RHS’s own Campaign for School Gardening offers a wealth of useful information and resources for schools – including an award scheme – to inspire and supports schools in their endeavours to provide children with gardening opportunities. They’re currently running an exciting competition for schools to win rocket seeds that have been in space. Check out the details here.
The society says its work with schools has shown that the direct benefits of gardening for children include improved physical and mental well-being, enhanced literacy, numeracy and oracy skills. Gardening also encourages a better and healthier lifestyle and teaches kids about the environment and sustainability while building life skills such as confidence, teamwork and communication.
The benefits of growing veg for children are so compelling that the government has even launched a taskforce to encourage schools to get digging. Launched in 2012, the Food Growing in Schools Taskforce was established in response to increasing concerns about the health and well-being of our children, and a belief in the many benefits of food growing in schools.
Mike Kitchen is the founder of Rocket Gardens, a Cornwall-based company that supplies its customers with ready-made vegetable plots in the form of baby organic vegetable and herb plants ready to be transplanted into allotments, raised beds or pots and containers. “The whole concept is about making it more accessible to people,” Mike says. “You stick your plants in the ground and you can be picking within two or three weeks.”
Rocket Gardens boasts around 250 schools on its client list. “We sell half a million plants to schools. Because they have a limited amount of time to look after their vegetables, our gardens give them a real kick start,” Mike says. “If everyone had loads of time on their hands, they could grow from seeds. Getting to grips early with growing vegetables is a great way to get children to connect.”
Growing Your Own at Home
School projects are great, but growing your own veg at home needn’t involve a huge amount of time, space or effort – and it helps children to understand where food comes from, an important starting point for conversations about healthy diets and nutrition.
Ed Scott, assistant harvest manager at Riverford Organic Farmers, says the benefits of getting kids involved in growing food are similar to the advantages of getting them involved in the kitchen. “Many of the little jobs you do when cooking from scratch can help instil a lifelong interest in cooking and eating good food.”
As community gardener at The Bishop’s Palace, home to the bishops of Bath and Wells, Amanda Clay gives talks and runs workshops on the subject of getting children involved in growing fruit and veg. More than just helping them to see where their food comes from, Amanda says it teaches them growing skills – and patience!
But has it made children more likely to eat the fruits of their labours? “If they have been directly involved in growing it, they are more likely to try it, as they have seen the whole process from seed to fruiting,” she says, “although some are not so keen on trying something that is a bit rustic looking.”
Inspired to start your own fruit and veg plot with the kids? Check out our handy guide below:
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