Assessment of food gardens as nutrition tool in primary schools in South Africa
Keywords: agriculture, National school nutrition program, school food gardens
AbstractObjectives: To assess knowledge, perceptions and practices on food production amongst learners and educators, gardening activities and management of school food gardens in schools participating in the National School Nutrition Programme. Design: Cross-sectional survey. Setting: Ten purposively selected primary schools in each of the nine provinces of South Africa (total: n = 90). Subjects and outcome measures: Questionnaire data were collected from the garden administrators (n = 66), garden workers (n = 55), educators (n = 687) and learners (n = 2 547). A checklist was completed for the school garden (n = 66) by observation. Results: Sixty-six (73%) schools had a food garden, varying in size (100 m2 – 6 000 m2). A variety of vegetables, but few fruit, were grown. Problems experienced with gardens were mostly lack of funds (59%), tools and infrastructure (47%), garden workers (53%) and technical support (50%). Few schools received external funding for food gardens. In 50% of gardens, crops were growing for > 6 months, and 30% of gardens provided fresh produce for school meals more than twice a week. Fifty-four percent (54%) of learners were involved in school gardens, and 67% had food gardens at home. Attitudes of learners and educators towards both food gardening and eating vegetables and fruit were generally positive; 68.4% of learners and 86.4% of educators indicated they like to eat vegetables every day. Conclusions: School food gardens as a vehicle for improving nutrition should be strengthened through training of educators and garden personnel, and support by external role players and policy directives are needed to enhance sustainability. (Full text available online at www.medpharm.tandfonline.com/ojcn) South Afr J Clin Nutr 2017; DOI: 10.1080/16070658.2017.1271609
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