South African Journal of Clinical Nutrition

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Assessment of food gardens as nutrition tool in primary schools in South Africa

Sunette M. Laurie, Mieke Faber, Mamokele M. Maduna


Objectives: 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.

Keywords: agriculture, National school nutrition program, school food gardens
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