Research & Reports

School Food Gardens—Benefits to Students

There is growing interest around the world for using gardens as a hands-on learning opportunity that can be integrated into a wide range of subject areas. Studies of food-producing gardens in schools cite the following benefits for children:

  • An increased willingness to taste and like new vegetables, and an increase in fruit and vegetable intake (1–6)
  • Reinforcement of nutrition lessons in the class (2)
  • Improved academic performance (7–8)
  • A hands-on approach to learning about sustainability, ecology and math (8–10, 12)
  • An opportunity for light to moderate physical activity (especially for those who are less physically active) (11)
  • Increased self-understanding (includes self-esteem) and self-efficacy, improved life-skills, improved teamwork and relationships with others and a sense of empowerment (13–15)


  1. Morris J, Neustadter A, Zidenberg-Cherr S.  First-grade gardeners more likely to taste vegetables.  California Agriculture.  2000;55:43-46.
  2. Morris J, Briggs M, Zidenberg-Cherr S.  School-based gardens can teach kids healthier eating habits.  California Agriculture.  2000;54:40-46.
  3. McAleese J, Rankin L.  Garden-based nutrition education affects fruit and vegetable consumption in sixth-grade adolescents.  J. of the American Dietetic Association.  2007;107:662-665.
  4. Lautenschlager L, Smith C.  Understanding gardening and dietary habits among youth garden program participants using the theory of planned behaviour.  Appetite.  2007;49:122-13
  5. Ratcliffe MM, Merrigan KA, Rogers BL, Goldgerg JP. The effects of school garden experiences on middle school-aged students’ knowledge, attitudes and behaviors associated with vegetable consumption. Health PromotPract OnLineFirst. 2009; doi: 10.1177/152483990934918
  6. Cotugna N, Manning CK, Didomenico J. Impact of the Use of Produce Grown in an Elementary School Garden on Consumption of Vegetables at School Lunch. J Hunger Environ Nutr. 2012; 7:11-19.
  7. Klemmer CD, Waliczek TM, Zajicek JM.  Growing minds: the effect of a school gardening program on the science achievement of elementary students.  HorTechnology.  2005;15:448-452.
  8. Graham H, Zidenberg-Cherr S.  California teachers perceive school gardens as an effective nutritional tool to promote healthful eating habits.  J. of the American Dietetic Association.  2005;105:1797-1800.
  9. Graham H, Lane Beall D, Lussier M, McLaughlin P, Zidenberg-Cherr S.  Use of school gardens in academic instruction.  J.  of Nutrition and Education Behavior.  2005;37:147-151
  10. Toyota Evergreen Learning Grounds.  Growing healthy food on Canada’s school grounds: school food garden survey results.  June 16, 2006.
  11. Ozer E.  The effects of school gardens in students and schools:  conceptualization and considerations for maximizing healthy development.  Health Education and Behavior.  2007;34:846-863.
  12. Bell A, Dyment J.  Evergreen Grounds for Action:  Promoting physical activity through school ground greening in Canada.  2006
  13. Robinson, C.W., Zajicek, J.M.  Growing minds: the effects of a one-year school garden program on six constructs of life skills of elementary school children.  HortTechnology. 2005;15(3):453-457
  14. Alexander J, North M-W, Hendren D K.  Master gardener classroom garden project: an evaluation of the benefits to children.  Children’s Environments.  1995;12(2):123-133
  15. Worsham N L, Goodvin R.  The bee kind garden: a qualitative description of work with maltreated children.  Clinical Child Psychology and Psychiatry.  2007; 12(2): 261-279

Leidy says:

October 28, 2016

HSC’s work to transform school food focuses on policy change at the national, state and local levels. Because the program is shaped significantly at each level of policy, we need alignment on all three levels to achieve the goal of fresh, healthy meals for every student.

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Making it Happen: Healthy Eating at School
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