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Colby College

Publication Date

Spring 2014

Program Name

Australia: Sustainability and Environmental Action

Abstract

The school kitchen garden is an innovative curricular program based on school children planting a garden and then learning to cook with the foods they grow. The program teaches students many life skills, along with teaching them about nutrition, the environment, sustainability, and almost every school subject. Researchers have studied various aspects of school kitchen gardens, but few have focused on kitchen gardens’ influence on students’ nutritional habits, environmental knowledge, and sustainability practices in particular, like this study does. The popularity of the kitchen garden program in Australia is mostly due to the celebrity chef Stephanie Alexander, who started a foundation that does everything from fund to provide curricular support to primary schools wanting to start a kitchen garden. This report examines two kitchen gardens in schools in the Northern Rivers Region of New South Wales, Australia—Tuntable Creek Public School and Main Arm Upper Public School. I analyzed over thirty peer-reviewed journal articles; conducted sixty hours of participant observation in the schools; surveyed eleven parents and twelve students; and interviewed seven parents, eight staff members, two volunteers, a member of the Stephanie Alexander Kitchen Garden Foundation, and ten students.

The two questions that guided my research were “how do school kitchen garden programs impact a students’ nutritional habits, environmental knowledge, and practices of sustainability,” and “how can a school kitchen garden be successful and economically sustainable?” I found overwhelming evidence suggesting that the program 1) shifted students’ nutritional habits towards fresher, healthier foods and encouraged them to be more adventurous eaters; 2) that the program is an effective way to teach students about the environment; and 3) that the program successfully teaches students to act and live sustainably. Because the kitchen garden program is so effective, researchers need to examine the factors that make the programs successful and economically viable. I found that successful programs should have a dedicated kitchen garden coordinator and have extensive support from the community. To make the program economically sustainable, schools can use the labor and donations from people in the community, sell produce from the garden, hold fundraisers, and charge a small student fee for the program.

Disciplines

Civic and Community Engagement | Family, Life Course, and Society | International and Community Nutrition | Nutrition | Social Welfare

 

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