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Combining nutrition with academics yields results

A three-year UC Berkeley study shows that students who get a steady curriculum of gardening, cooking and nutrition have significantly better eating habits than children who don't get the same instruction, according to an article in the San Francisco Chronicle.

The report, by UC Berkeley's Dr. Robert C. and Veronica Atkins Center for Weight and Health, looks at how an integrated approach to food education at the elementary-school level contributes to children's desire to eat fruits and vegetables.

"It just validates everything we've known to be true," said Alice Waters, founder of the Chez Panisse Foundation, which funded the study.

An analysis of the study by Ed Bruske of The Grist, however, painted a less optimistic picture, saying that extraordinary resources that had to be put into play to achieve mixed results.

Fourth- and fifth-graders with access to the "highly developed" garden and culinary program increased their consumption of vegetables by nearly one serving per day, Bruske wrote. But as the students moved into middle school, they not only made little further progress, but they regressed -- even though they spent more time in gardening and cooking classes.

Researchers are hopeful that exposure to gardening and cooking in grade school will carry through to high school and the adult years, resulting in healthier eating habits in the long run.

"I really do think it makes an impact for life -- truly," chef Ann Cooper was quoted in the Grist article. "Middle school is tough no matter what. But in all other academic domains we continue to work with them, and we need to in this area as well."

School gardens can change eating behaviors.
School gardens can change eating behaviors.

Posted on Tuesday, September 28, 2010 at 8:07 AM

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