The Food Growing in Schools report highlights compelling evidence that proves food growing in schools helps support children achieve, builds life and employability skills, and improves their health and well-being. The report was published in March 2012 by a Taskforce led by the charity Garden Organic alongside 25 members, including Morrisons Supermarket, Forestry Commission and the Royal Horticultural Society. It is supported by FPH.
Having proven the benefits of food growing, the Taskforce is now urging for providers, society and business to come together to ensure that in future every child is involved in food growing as part of their school experience. Children across 80% – or 26,000 – of England’s schools are now involved in some level of school food growing, thanks to school initiatives including the Big Lottery funded Food for Life Partnership and charitable programmes like the RHS Campaign for school gardening.
The Taskforce looked at evidence from all of these schemes and more, alongside academic research including an independent report from National Foundation for Educational Research (NFER), which surveyed 1302 schools and undertook a systematic literature review, contributing weighty evidence confirming that school food growing activity:
• Encourages and facilitates learning – particularly in science
• Builds skills, including life, enterprise and employment related skills
• Improves awareness and understanding of the natural environment
• Promotes health and well being in relation to diet and nutrition
• Supports school improvement and development
• Strengthens communities and interaction.
A stand out finding of the report was the benefit school food growing activity had on academic achievement. Schools cited supporting the outdoor curriculum (68%), supporting the science curriculum (57%) and supporting the food technology curriculum (39%) as motivations for growing food in their school. Further evidence showed enhanced scientific understanding, numeracy, literacy, and language skills.
Builds life and employability skills
Aside from the emphasis on improving learning, the Taskforce found that the activity of growing food in schools also supported the acquisition of life skills, including financial literacy and enterprise skills. Interestingly communication and employment skills were also enhanced. It also found signs of improved motivation and behaviour, for example arriving early to school and leaving later, increased attendance and completion of homework and less disruptive classroom behaviour.
Improves health and wellbeing
One of the report’s key findings is the evidence that proves school food growing promotes good health through improved diet and nutrition and better well-being through improved self-esteem and self confidence. 73% of schools cited teaching children about nutrition as a motivation for food growing, 68% for giving them skills for a healthy adult life and 33% for encouraging exercise. Evidence showed improved understanding of food and nutrition, increased willingness to try fruit and vegetables and increased consumption of fruit and vegetables, and school meals where food grown in school is incorporated into school catering were also increased.