Health Team

Gardening can help urge children to eat their vegetables

Posted June 3, 2009 5:37 p.m. EDT
Updated June 3, 2009 6:26 p.m. EDT

— The goal of community gardens is to involve residents in the building, planting, tending, harvesting and eating.

Experts say it is important for children, who aren’t usually big vegetable eaters, to get involved with gardening projects.

“A lot of times if you ask a child where food comes from they think it’s the grocery store and they don’t understand that food actually comes from to the ground,” said Emily Ford, a registered dietitian at WakeMed.

Inter-Faith Food Shuttle farm manager Sun Butler tells children that vegetable plants need a good environment and good nutrients to grow big and healthy.

“When they eat vegetables and they’re getting good nutrients and a good environment, they’ll grow big and healthy too,” Butler said.

The food shuttle’s farm and community gardens project aims to create local sources of fresh fruits and vegetables for under-served communities in the Triangle. Their sites include the Mayview neighborhood in Raleigh.

Michael Harris is among the children working at the Mayview community garden, off of Oberlin Road. He said his favorite part of the project is watering the plants.

Experts say if children grow the food themselves, they are more likely to eat it.

Even if children have given store-bought tomatoes, squash or peppers a try, Inter-Faith Food Shuttle's  Kathrine Andrew says they may find home-grown veggies more to their liking.

“Fresh food tastes better and when it tastes better, people are going to eat more fruits and vegetables,” Andrew said.

For these kids, it may just be the start of a healthier way of life.

Another community garden is being built in Raleigh's Capital Park.

The program depends heavily on volunteers and donated materials. Seed donations are needed to build more of these gardens, which are also designed so the elderly can take part.