9th Conference European Sociological Association

RN04 Sociology of Children and Childhood

2009-09-05 13:30:00 2009-09-05 15:00:00 Saturday, 5 September 13:30 - 15:00 POSTER SESSION Building II, C6.01

Growing Community: the social impacts of a school-based kitchen garden program


School gardening and garden-based nutrition programs are seen as having the potential to improve children?s nutritional and health status as well as positively influencing social and environmental behaviours. However, the evidence base assessing these impacts is limited and is usually focused on health and nutritional outcomes. This presentation will explore the social impacts of a school-based kitchen garden program on students and the broader school community.

The authors are conducting a mixed-method longitudinal evaluation to examine the processes, impacts and outcomes of a kitchen garden program initiated by Australian celebrity chef Stephanie Alexander. The program has been operating in 27 primary schools across the state of Victoria and is currently being expanded nationally. The Stephanie Alexander Kitchen Garden program offers children the opportunity to grow, harvest, prepare and share fresh, nutritious, seasonal and delicious food. The program objective is to provide a pleasurable experience that will positively influence children?s food choices, attitudes towards environmental sustainability and working relationships with other children and adults.

This presentation will focus on the qualitative data from this study, which suggest that participants value the social impacts of the program as highly as the nutritional. Focus groups and interviews were conducted to elicit the views of children, teachers, parents, program volunteers, school principals and kitchen and garden teachers from six schools that had been running the program for one to two years.

Some of the attributes of the program valued most highly by study participants went well beyond its immediate objectives. Opportunities for experiential and integrated learning, teamwork, building social skills, social connections and links between schools and their communities were seen as particularly important. Observed increases in student engagement and confidence were also key themes and seen by many as particularly valuable for ?non-academic? or ?challenging? children, some of whom had few other opportunities for experiencing ?success? at school. The program was seen as directly benefiting not only the children but also the other stakeholder groups by creating a ?learning community? in which all could be involved.