The National School Garden Program
Slow Food USA’s National School Garden Program (NSGP) aims to reconnect youth with their food by teaching them how to grow, cook and enjoy real food. Through increased confidence, knowledge gain and skill building, we want to empower children to become active participants in their food choices. By becoming informed eaters, today’s children will help make a positive impact on the larger world of food and farming well into the future.
The goal of the NSGP is to support local Slow Food chapters, volunteers, garden leaders, and teachers to become more effective in sustaining school garden programs in their community. We hope chapters will serve as a local school garden hub of important resources and volunteer assistance, as well as a connector that facilitates partnerships on the ground. The expansion of Slow Food USA’s National School Garden Program brings an abundance of resources, including curriculum and program ideas, to Slow Food chapters and schools across the country.
Why School Gardens?
In recent years, various types of gardens are appearing on school grounds all over the world. These gardens are being built by parents, school departments and even community partners. These gardens often aim to connect children with hands-on experiences in nature that complement the academic studies in the classroom. Another common goal is to engage children in the growing, harvesting, preparation and eating of healthy food from the gardens.
Despite nearly 5,000 school gardens across the United States reported by the USDA, including over 600 confirmed school gardens in just Oregon alone (Rick Sherman, OR Department of Education), we still hear many questions like “Why have a school garden?”. In this section, we hope to build a solid case for parents, teachers and administrators who may be struggling with concrete answers to these questions.
School Garden Resources
Youth Farm Stands
Youth Farm Stands (YFS) provide educational opportunities by reinforcing traditional academics such as math and science and building life skills such as customer service, conflict resolution, and entrepreneurship. The model also supports nutrition education training so that families can see the advantages of eating the fresh produce in their daily meals.
Garden to Cafeteria
Join Slow Food USA and Whole Kids Foundation, with the support of United Health Foundation, as we launch a new resource to help you establish a Garden to Cafeteria program in your district.
Slow Food USA’s “Growing Leaders in the Garden” is a Professional Development series that brings Slow Food staff and curriculum leaders to schools to help connect the school garden to classroom subject areas. We offer training in gardening, cooking classes, leadership in the garden, and programs like Youth Farmers Markets, Garden to Cafeteria and Produce for Pantries.
Grants & the Garden Guide
From design, implementation and curriculum to fundraising, volunteers and school policy, this comprehensive “how-to” guide offers a clear roadmap for developing a successful school garden program in any community, based on Slow Food values.
Find a School Garden
School gardens often aim to connect children with hands-on experiences in nature that complement the academic studies in the classroom. Another common goal is to engage children in the growing, harvesting, preparation and eating of healthy food from the gardens. Find out more today!
Current Academic Research
Research Question: Academic Success
Has participation in school garden programs led to impacts on test scores in classroom subjects such as math and science?
Research Question: Choice Behaviors and Fruit and Vegetable Consumption
Do garden and cooking classes lead to an increase in either choosing or consumption of fruits and vegetables?
Research Question: Obesity Prevention
Can we measure changes in body weight as the result of participating in school garden, cooking and food education classes?
Research Question: Food Justice
How can school gardens be used to raise awareness of food justice issues in a community?
Research Question: Garden Therapy
Does participation in school garden activities lead to changes in children with behavioral disorders?
Research Question: Structuring School Gardens
Are there common practices in school gardens that lead to strong leadership, sustainability and successful programs?
- Best Practices for Structuring School Gardens (Text Summary)
- Best Practices for Structuring School Gardens (Presentation)
A HUGE thank you to Shaked Landor of New York University for the time and effort to review all these papers, to produce the summaries and to prepare the PowerPoint slides. We wish Shaked much success as she works to complete her Masters Degree in Bioethics.
Please note that any original data represented in either graphic or written form can be assumed to be statistically significant
Additional Research Findings
- Benefits of School Gardens (Denver Urban Gardens)
- Berezowitz, C. K., Bontrager Yoder, A. B. and Schoeller, D. A. (2015), School Gardens Enhance Academic Performance and Dietary Outcomes in Children .Journal of School Health, 85: 508–518. doi: 10.1111/josh.12278