Friday 30 January 2009

School lunches

School lunches have become a hot issue in the last few years; celebrity chefs in both England and America have protested the unhealthy, processed meals and pushed for reforms. That’s a great thing – but even better, why not show children how to make their own food?

A number of teachers around the world have found great success doing just that. Zenobia Barlow, director of the Center for Ecological Literacy in the U.S., helped a school turn its garden into an allotment. In doing so, the school has turned almost every class into a field trip, and every school dinner into a nutritious, organically-homegrown feast.

School gardens, or field trips to existing allotments, accomplish many things at once. They show children where meals come from – this farmer, this field, as opposed to a plastic package. They demonstrate that they have the power to create, and that negligence has consequences, that some things cannot be hurried or improved upon.

They create a living laboratory of biology, chemistry and economics; holding a fat worm makes a lesson real to a child in a way that no video can. Gardens also create exercise and entertainment for children who have been sitting behind desks for hours.

Time spent with nature is a vital part of growing up, and one that fewer young people experience as the countryside is built up and they spend more of their time watching television. One recent study suggested that the recent rise of problems like attention-deficit disorder is due to “nature-deficit disorder,” the lack of natural stimulation – climbing trees, jumping over streams -- in children’s lives.

Perhaps most of all, a garden makes the best food around. Nutritionists have shown that vegetables lose vitamins and taste from the moment they are picked, and gardens provide children with healthy food much of the year. Whether you are minding children, teaching, or just parenting, consider making gardening a part of your child’s daily education.


Unknown said...

I think this is a great idea, but I have never grown anything. Are there any resources that you would recommend as a guide for getting started?

Brian Kaller said...


Do you mean growing anything in a garden, or do you mean getting kids involved in a school garden?

If you mean a garden of any kind, I would start small -- perhaps growing sprouts from mung beans, which are tasty and take two or three days. I wrote about them here:

After that, maybe work up to growing things in soil, edible plants that grow quickly in small trays or pots -- radishes, cress, chives, and so on. After that you could work up to larger, outdoor plants that are easy to grow -- pumpkins, sunflowers, tomatoes.

It will depend, of course, on where you are in the world -- you can grow things in Ireland you can't grow in California, and vice versa.

For more information on growing school gardens, you could contact Zenobia Barlow's organisation, Ecoliteracy, at:

Alternately, Jackie Bourke's org in Ireland, Playtime:

Let me know if this helps!