Vitamin A-related potential of wild edible plants in a school vegetable garden: a case study from North-West province, South Africa
This study explored the potential of promoting edible wild plants as source of vitamin A in a resource-limited rural, South African middle-school (grades 7-9) garden, using a mixed method approach of four parallel sub-studies in the rainy season of 2007. Gardening practices in the surrounding community were determined with textual- and image-based data obtained during structured on-site interviews with supervisors of eleven gardens. Currently carrots and spinach have the potential to contribute to improving the vitamin A status. The anthropometric status and diet (adapted Helen Keller Questionnaire) of 80 systematically selected pupils showed primarily undernutrition. No food source of vitamin A was frequently consumed by a considerable percentage of pupils. Focus group discussions (n=7; eight pupils per group) of factors affecting pupils’ intake of selected vitamin A rich foods, indicated that internal and external factors were at work. Assessment of awareness, consumption and popularity of four edible wild plants (Amaranthus, Cleome, Cucurbita and Lagenaria) (n=85) revealed that many of the children that were aware of the wild plants ate them weekly and liked them, with between-species differences in popularity.
Vitamin A-related impact of edible wild plants in a school garden cannot be assumed. The context, nutritional status, and factors influencing pupils’ food intake may modulate the potential.