Kindergartens are good teachers, teach children to eat healthy (and improve grades)

Kindergartens are a great help in teaching children (and parents) to eat healthy, but the experience of a Mexican school, supported by the FAO, also shows how they help increase school performance

Caring for a kitchen garden is a pleasant, relaxing and stimulating activity for the mind. Having to deal with seedlings to grow in order to then be able to taste the fruits of his labor is also very useful for children, a simple and effective system to teach them the importance of healthy eating.

To remember, it is the FAO that summarizes the benefits of “school gardens” in 5 points:

  • Taste and learn about healthy food
  • Learn to grow fruits and vegetables
  • Develop teamwork skills
  • Promote better nutrition
  • To learn to appreciate the work of those who grow our food

The experience of Mexico

An example of how having a school garden cared for by students can make a difference comes from Mexico. Here, and more precisely at the General Lázaro Cárdenas School in Ajalpan, in the heart of the Mexican province of Puebla, students plant, harvest and eat together what they love and grow to maturity.

In short, the students’ involvement in the initiative goes far beyond just sitting down and eating lunch together every day. In fact, the 96 students, with the occasional help of their parents, personally contribute to the cultivation of food in the school’s own garden.

To this end, some raised beds have been placed by the country’s Ministry of Agriculture in collaboration with the FAO, after a study by the local NGO, SURCOS, found high levels of malnutrition in the Náhuatl community in the city of Ajalpan. In this society, as many as 87% of young people suffer from health problems caused by malnutrition, which in turn is a consequence of the financial difficulties that families live in.

The garden therefore allows children to eat healthy. This actually produces 13 different types of vegetables and is also home to a chicken coop.

The presence of the kitchen gardenMoreover, it also improved students’ grades. As the director of the school, José Cirilo Cruz Peralta, said:

We are discovering that students’ poor grades are definitely caused by unhealthy nutrition. It was a good time to try to connect these two things and pull something positive out of them.

Haven is a great teacher

The principal, who is also a professor at the school, uses the garden to teach children to take care of themselves and the environment, while other teachers use it to teach multiplication and division, while students use rulers to measure perimeters and areas for sowing.

And of course, the science classes find their “natural habitat” in the garden.

To learn biology, however, the hens are very useful, producing between 15 and 18 eggs a day, excellent for preparing students’ lunch.

But this project managed to do much more: it has extended to families. Following the school’s example, some parents have also laid out their own gardens at home and have decided to close the snack shop, which was located in the school complex. Now snacks, processed foods and junk food have been replaced by chard, carrots, spinach and cauliflower.

In short, even parents have become more aware of the importance of a healthy diet. As one mother who has children in school said:

We decided to close the store because it sold everything we know is not good for our children. This type of food does terrible damage to their bodies and affects everything from the teeth to the intestines.

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Source: FAO

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