10 May 2022


The Effect of Gardening in Schools

Format: APA

Academic level: Master’s

Paper type: Research Paper

Words: 2221

Pages: 8

Downloads: 0

Literature Review

Healthy Eating Habits

The United States is grappling with health issues regarding obesity and overweight. Multiple types of research have shown that obesity is attributed to unhealthy eating habits and lack of exercise. School setting can promote healthy eating habits and exercise by taking the necessary measures. Because a significant percentage of calories is taken during school hours, the schools can modify their menus to focus more on healthy foods. In many school cafeterias, it is common to find junk foods and drinks all of which are promoting unhealthy eating habits among students. Obesity is a condition that leads to the development of more severe health cases including cardiovascular failure, diabetes, and depressions. 

Cluss et al. (2014) conducted an empirical study to investigate the impacts of food service improvement in elementary school. The researchers’ utilized data obtained for seven years in different schools. The findings of the research are impressive as it reveals another dimension of nutrition that should be adopted in schools. According to the results by Cluss et al., the sale of food containing high calories decreased significantly during the period of studies. The drop in purchase of high calories food from 22 percent to zero percent shows that the students have in the region of study understood the importance of eating low-calorie food. Again, the consumption of fresh food increased judging from the 12 percent increase in sales of fruits and vegetables in the school cafeterias. 

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The findings of Cluss et al. (2014) resonate with the theoretical frameworks that have been established regarding the consumption of healthy foods. This research is particularly important for scholars given the study subjects. In this case, the researchers focused on elementary schools. At young ages, children learn eating habits that they track to adulthood. The changing consumption habit of elementary students implies that they are likely to continue with the consumption of healthy foods including fruits in the future. As such, it is anticipated that the students will have a healthy lifestyle free of risks of developing opportunistic diseases.

Another important aspect of the study by Cluss et al. (2014) is the efforts of stakeholders in promoting healthy eating habits. The authors point out that the community attributes the success in the healthy eating habits of students to the initiative. The surrounding community helped most schools to implement the program by offering its support to the organization. Studies have repeatedly shown that stakeholders are an instrumental component of institutions, without their support, programs and initiatives may fail to meet goals and objectives. From this study, it is evident that both community and institutions are becoming conscious of unhealthy eating habits among the young population and the devastating effects in future. The deliberate and proactive measures that are taken by the institutions are aimed at enhancing the health of the nation starting from the grassroots. 

Whereas the study focuses on the initiatives that are taken by educational institutions to promote a healthy diet among students, the researchers fail to highlight hand in practices that have a significant impact on the students. For instance, Cluss et al. (2014), outline that some foods were eliminated from the menu due to high-calorie content. The students had limited options of food; probably such led to the choice of other foods, which in reality were low in calories. A fundamental question that the researchers fail to answer is the students’ reaction toward the re-introduction of eliminated foods in the school menu. Arguably, the students may decide to start ordering such foods in great numbers. This means that for the consumption of healthy food to be inculcated in the minds of the students then a more practical approach like gardening should be adopted.

Duncan et al. (2015) take a more practical approach towards the concept of healthy eating habits among students. Duncan and colleagues studied the effects of gardening in schools and how it shapes the behavior of students regarding the consumption of vegetables and fruits. The backdrop of this study is based on the previous finding that reveals the inadequacy in fruit and vegetable consumption among the children and adolescents. Previous research shows that increasing the knowledge about consumption of fruits and vegetables and relating it with health benefits is likely to compel individuals to start eating fruits and vegetables (Kothe, Mullan, & Butow, 2012). As such, many institutions have had a major challenge of developing, promoting, and sustaining initiatives that enhance consumption of fruits and vegetables among children.

Various researchers tend to agree that school gardening programs are an effective way of promoting consumption of fruits and vegetables (Kothe, Mullan, & Butow, 2012). The assertion is seemingly true considering the practical approach students take in processes of growing and tendering to the fruits and vegetable until maturity. As students understand the process of growth, they are likely to develop an interest in the consumption of the fruits and vegetables they have grown. The school setting is a beneficial environment for promoting healthy consumption culture and attitude. Multiple types of research have pointed out that gardening programs enhance the students’ attitude toward exploration of new foods (Boyer, McFarland, Zajicek, & Waliczek, 2011). For instance, in the gardens, different types of vegetables and fruits are grown. The assumption that all students have tasted all fruits and vegetables is misguided due to preferential inclinations to specific fruits and vegetables. However, in this case, students are willing to experience the taste of new fruits and vegetables.

In the study by Duncan et al. (2015), 77 participants were involved, experiential studies utilized previous theoretical framework used by Kothe, Mullan, & Butow (2012). The students were allocated a small plot approximated to be 20m by 30m. For 11 weeks, the students worked twice a week in the gardening sessions. Students planted a variety of vegetables including beans, lettuces, cucumbers, radishes, rockets, and carrots. The children were encouraged to develop personal relationships with the crops through the act of touching, feeling and smelling. As a way of enhancing the children’s attitude towards the crops, the children undertook various curricula activities relating to growth, development, and maturation of plants. The findings of the study agree with previous results proffering that school gardening programs have positive influences on the consumption of fruits and vegetable among children. The researchers, however, point out the likely shortcomings of the research. Since the study was conducted in a small city of Coventry, the authors’ questions whether the same result can be obtained in other settings. More specifically, the researchers state the socio-economic role may have a significant impact on children behavior and attitudes toward the consumption of fruits and vegetables.

Another critical aspect of a healthy lifestyle is physical activities. Sedentary lifestyles promote the development of opportunistic diseases including obesity and overweight. Studies show that most children are failing to achieve recommended levels of physical activities (Turner, Johnson, Slater, & Chaloupka, 2014). With the ever-changing technological advancement, the majority of children prefer taking inactive activities as ways of entertainment. For instance, many schools going children are likely to watch movies, play video games than take a jog, or engage in physical activities. The health benefits of physical activities are well documented and available to the public domain. With the upsurge in the cases of obesities, health experts and other practitioners are looking for various ways of reducing sedentary behavior among children.

Wells, Myers, and Henderson Jr (2014) conducted a research to determine how school gardening in under-resourced elementary schools in New York City affected physical activities of children. The randomized study included 12 schools. The results of the study show that garden intervention programs improved children involvement in physical activities. Wells et al. show that children who were involved in the gardening projects increased time spent engaging in moderate to vigorous physical activities. Conversely, children who were not included in the gardening initiative exhibited reduced time spent in doing moderate to strenuous physical activities. Again, the authors highlight the limitation of the study. According to the authors, the study the focus on one region affects the external validity, which affects the generalizability associated with different context and group. Other external factors may affect the validity of results due to the wide array of study parameters.

The research by Wells and colleague launches another trajectory regarding the health of children. With many children consumed in the digital media, parents and teachers are struggling to find ways of motivating the children to engage in physical activities. The study conducted by Wells, Myers, and Henderson Jr (2014) is promising to the scholars. Whereas the research is focused on a small area, a nationwide analysis is critical to ascertaining the correlation between school gardening initiatives and physical activities. As mentioned earlier, two primary factors leading to intensification of obesity in the population include unhealthy eating habits and lack of physical exercise. Then, seemingly, school gardening program emerges as an effective technique of reducing obesity among the children. As a holistic idea, gardening in school should become mandatory. In most studies analyzed so far, the limits of the researches are attributed to research constraints and objectives. For instance, Wells et al. (2014) and Duncan et al. (2015) have constraints that limit the generalization of the results. However, unhealthy eating habits and lack of physical exercise cuts across all socioeconomic contexts.

Brendamour (2015) writes a commentary focusing on gardening and nutrition education in schools. Brendamour outlines income disparity, food inaccessibility, and lack of knowledge as the core contributors to poor nutrition in the US. The author posits that schools should incorporate nutrition education with hand on gardening to enhance better nutrition among households. Brendamour faults the efficacy of nutrition education alone. Indeed, the science curricular clearly outlines the benefits of better nutrition. Despite the knowledge on, for instance, consumption of fruits, many students are unable to incorporate fruits and vegetables into their diet consistently (Brendamour, 2015). Brendamour avers that hands-on- gardening experiences change the students’ perspective on consumption of fruits and vegetables. In this commentary, Brendamour underscores the research of previous studies that emphasizes a practical approach to theoretical concepts. Brendamour cites various scholars who have published articles regarding the efficacy of nutrition education. With the study limitations of the past studies illustrating a consistent trend, the author offers useful insights regarding the approach that can improve the effectiveness of nutrition education. According to Brendamour (2015), elementary and secondary educational institutions should invest resources in supporting gardening projects.

Stakeholders Involvement in Promotion of Better Nutrition

Researchers understand that better nutrition and physical exercises can be promoted through a collaborative approach. The schools should work in collaboration with the community and the parents to support better nutrition. Kehm, Davey, and Nanney (2015) study the role of families and community plays in the development and implementation of policies in schools. In the experimental investigations, Kehm and colleagues focused on the meta-analysis of over 6000 secondary schools. According to the findings, parents and the community positively affect the creation and execution of nutrition and physical activities policies in schools. The future of the community is contingent on the health of its people. As such, the community is justified to support initiatives that enhance the welfare of children or students. 

The parent's support for better nutrition is critical in this process for two reasons. First, according to Kehm, Davey, and Nanney (2015), the policies affect the parents’ nutrition practices at home. Evidently, a parent will only support a policy one he or she is certain about the content and the benefits. Such implies that a parent will practice better nutrition at homes to supplement the efforts made at school. Parent’s lack of support or knowledge of the policies is counterproductive. Second, the parents understand that cumulative long-term effects of poor nutrition and lack of physical activities have grave consequences the on the children. As such, the parents support the policies to avert the health crisis that children may encounter in future. Again, it is vital to look at the policies from a different angle. Much of the debate focuses on the benefits of proper nutrition and physical exercise on children. However, involvements of parents in school initiative especially those programs dealing with health issues have direct benefits. Research shows that old people are at risk of developing conditions such as obesity (Boyer, McFarland, Zajicek, & Waliczek, 2011). By supporting the health programs in schools, the parents also take an active role in enhancing their health.

Just and Wansink (2014) conducted another research that indirectly touches parents’ involvement in the nutrition of children. The researcher aimed at establishing a connection between debit cards and foods student purchased in the school cafeterias. The empirical data was obtained from 285 public schools in 94 districts. The investigators discovered that debit card increases the chances of students purchasing foods with higher calories. On the other hand, with the use of cash, parents can track how children make purchases in school cafeterias. This research highlights ways in which parents can utilize to monitor the dietary behavior of children at school. As such, with the provision of enough cash, the parents can limit the consumption rate of high-calorie foods among children.

Kessler, Vine, and Rogers (2015) explored the involvement of nutrition workgroups in schools. The study revealed that partnership with various groups improved school nutrition. As such, it is evident that nutrition and physical activities in schools require the involvement of all stakeholders in the education sector. Pigg, Waliczek, and Zajicek (2006) conducted research that answers one the research objective of the research paper. The study investigated the impact of gardening programs on the academic progress of students. The findings show that the performance of students in gardening programs improved significantly in math and science. Whereas the study is one of its kind, it opens a new angle on the methods of advancing science and math education considering the decline in the performance of the subject among the students. The available literature has clearly illuminated on the effects of gardening. It is clear that gardening program has immense benefits to both the student and the community. As such, the research paper will seek to explore the effects of the gardening program in the context of Charlotte City.


Boyer, R., McFarland, A. L., Zajicek, J. M., & Waliczek, T. M. (2011). Growing Minds: Gardening and parent involvement in elementary schools.  Journal Of Therapeutic Horticulture 21 (2), 8-26.

Brendamour, B. (2015). Nutrition education and gardening in elementary and secondary schools.  Kentucky Nurse 63 (2), 3-4.

Cluss, P. A., Fee, L., Culyba, R. J., Bhat, K. B., & Owen, K. (2014). Effect of food service nutrition improvements on elementary school cafeteria lunch purchase patterns.  The Journal Of School Health 84 (6), 355-362.

Duncan, M. J., Eyre, E., Bryant, E., Clarke, N., Birch, S., Staples, V., & Sheffield, D. (2015). The impact of a school-based gardening intervention on intentions and behaviour related to fruit and vegetable consumption in children.  Journal Of Health Psychology 20 (6), 765-773.

Just, D. R., & Wansink, B. (2014). School lunch debit card payment systems are associated with lower nutrition and higher calories. Obesity 22 (1), 24-26.

Kehm, R., Davey, C. S., & Nanney, M. S. (2015). The role of family and community involvement in the development and implementation of school nutrition and physical activity policy.  Journal of School Health 85 (2), 90-99 10p.

Kessler, H. L., Vine, J., & Rogers, V. W. (2015). Let's Go! School nutrition workgroups: regional partnerships for improving school meals.  Journal Of Nutrition Education And Behavior 47 (3), 278-282.

Kothe, E. J., Mullan, B. A., & Butow, P. (2012). Promoting fruit and vegetable consumption. Testing an intervention based on the theory of planned behaviour. Appetite 58: 997–1004

Pigg, A. E., Waliczek, T. M., & Zajicek, J. M. (2006). Effects of a gardening program on the academic progress of third, fourth, and fifth grade math and science students. HortTechnology , 16 (2), 262-264.

Turner, L., Johnson, T. G., Slater, S. J., & Chaloupka, F. J. (2014). Physical Activity Practices in Elementary Schools and Associations With Physical Education Staffing and Training.  Research Quarterly For Exercise & Sport 85 (4), 488-501.

Wells, N. M., Myers, B. M., & Henderson Jr, C. R. (2014). School gardens and physical activity: A randomized controlled trial of low-income elementary schools. Preventive medicine , 69 , S27-S33.

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