UN food agency promotes ‘green thumb’ for schools
A green thumb, especially among the young, can be a powerful tool to improve nutrition, and the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) today cast a spotlight on its TeleFood initiative supporting school garden projects in more than 40 countries.
“School gardens can be a powerful tool to improve the quality of nutrition and education of children and their families in rural and urban areas in developing countries, if they are integrated with national agricultural, nutrition and education programmes,” FAO said in a news release.
Since 1997, over 150 school garden microprojects have been supported by FAO's TeleFood programme and larger technical cooperation projects are under way, including capacity-building for long-term national school garden programmes.
School garden initiatives supported by FAO programmes range from emergency rehabilitation assistance in Mozambique and the Democratic People's Republic of Korea (DPRK), nutrition education in Rwanda and food security projects in Guatemala and Sierra Leone to a school garden project in Brazil in connection with that country’s Zero Hunger Programme.
The main benefit of school gardens is that children learn how to grow healthy food and how to use it for better nutrition. This can best be done if the fresh garden produce – such as fruits and vegetables – supplements an existing school meal programme that provides the bulk of the diet.
Beyond this, school gardens also serve environmental education and personal and social development by adding a practical dimension to these subjects. They may also reinforce basic academic skills like reading, writing, biology and arithmetic.
FAO therefore encourages schools to create learning gardens of moderate size, which can be easily managed by students, teachers and parents, but which include a great variety of different nutritious vegetables and fruits, as well as occasionally some small-scale livestock like chickens, rabbits and fish. Production methods are deliberately kept simple so that they can be easily replicated by students and parents at their homes.