News

Renowned nutritionist Rosemary Stanton announced as Ambassador for Program
09-12-2008

 

Respected Australian nutritionist Rosemary Stanton OAM is the Stephanie Alexander Kitchen Garden Program Ambassador for Queensland, New South Wales (with Kylie Kwong) and the ACT. She recently spoke at information sessions in these areas, outlining why the philosophy of the Kitchen Garden Program is so important for Australian children.

Here's what Rosemary had to say about the Program...

In the field of nutrition, our most pressing need is to encourage children (and adults) to eat fewer sugary, salty, fatty processed foods and more fruit and vegetables. Our dietary guidelines have called for these changes - but have had little effect. The recently released results from a national children's nutrition survey report that 39% of 4-8 year-olds and 99% of 14-16 year olds failed to consume the recommended 1-3 serves of fruit/day. For vegetables, almost 80% of 4-8 year-olds and 95% of 14-16 year-olds fail the recommendations for 2-4 serves of veggies per day. (The number of serves recommended increases with age.)

Children who don't form the habit of eating vegetables and other real foods tend to retain such poor habits into adult life.

In seeking changes in children's diets, positive programs are most likely to be effective. We need to enthuse children about all basic foods, including vegetables. With around 25% of our children now classified as overweight or obese, better eating habits are greatly needed. In almost all cases, this involves eating more fruit and vegetables and less packaged junk food.

 

The research

In February 2008, researchers at the Department of Paediatrics at the University at Buffalo in the United States found that encouraging children to eat more fruit and vegetables was more effective in controlling their weight than giving them advice to reduce energy-dense processed food (1).

Another study in the United States compared consumption of fruit and vegetables among sixth-grade students in three schools selected to have minimal differences in various sociological factors. In one school, students were given a 12-week nutrition education program. Another established a kitchen garden. The third acted as a control with no new programs. The students attending the school with the kitchen garden consumed significantly more fruit and vegetables and had significant increases in their intake of beta carotene, vitamin C and fibre (2).

In a study of 1658 younger children in Missouri, researchers have also found the children were much more likely to enjoy and consume fruits and vegetables when home-grown produce was available. The authors stated that 'facilitating the development of gardening programs may be a worthwhile investment' (3).

Another study of 8-15 year olds in Minneapolis found that children involved with a school garden program had a more positive attitude to fruits and vegetables and consumed more of them. The researchers concluded that garden programs may be a viable way to assist youth in making healthy lifestyle changes (4).

Teachers are also aware of the value of school gardens, A survey of 1665 teachers in California found that students in schools with vegie gardens had better academic performance, physical activity, language, arts, and healthful eating habits (5).

A group of researchers in Melbourne are gathering evidence from the effects of the Stephanie Alexander Kitchen Garden Program. So far, the results fit with other studies that show children become more enthused about vegetables when they grow and prepare them. Anecdotally, the reports are that in some cases, the child's influence can spread to improve the foods selected by the whole family.

As a nutritionist, I have long advocated looking at three aspects associated with food:

  • Health and nutrition
  • Taste and food literacy
  • Environmental sustainability.

The Stephanie Alexander Kitchen Garden Program does not openly push the health and nutrition angle, yet by emphasising the other two aspects, it can assist health and nutrition without ever having to preach on such matters. I therefore give the program a tick for all three aspects that are vitally important for our children's future.

 

References

(1) Epstein LH, Paluch RA, Beecher MD, Roemmich JN. Increasing Healthy Eating vs. Reducing High Energy-dense Foods to Treat Pediatric Obesity. Obesity (Silver Spring) 2008 Feb; 16 (2): 318-26.

(2) McAleese JD, Rankin LL. Garden-based nutrition education affects fruit and vegetable consumption in sixth-grade adolescents. J Am Diet Assoc. 2007 Apr; 107 (4): 662-5.

(3) Nanney MS, Johnson S, Elliott M, Haire-Joshu D. Frequency of eating homegrown produce is associated with higher intake among parents and their preschool-aged children in rural Missouri. J Am Diet Assoc. 2007 Apr; 107(4): 577-84.

(4) Lautenschlager L, Smith C. Understanding gardening and dietary habits among youth garden program participants using the Theory of Planned Behavior. Appetite. 2007 Jul; 49 (1): 122-30. Epub 2007 Jan 30.

(5) Graham H, Zidenberg-Cherr S. California teachers perceive school gardens as an effective nutritional tool to promote healthful eating habits. J Am Diet Assoc. 2005 Nov; 105 (11): 1797-800.





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