The Stephanie Alexander Kitchen Garden Program has been given a rave review by an evaluation conducted in Victorian schools, which shows the effects are wide-ranging and extend way beyond simply encouraging healthy eating.
The benefits included engaging children in learning, increasing their willingness to try new foods, and improving their knowledge, confidence and skills around cooking and gardening.
The program was considered particularly effective at engaging ‘non-academic learners’ and children with challenging behaviours. The researchers suggested the program may address “health inequities in a way that is difficult to achieve in health promotion programs”, although further research was needed to confirm this finding.
The school social environment and community connections were also improved. “The program was often described as transformational for the school,” the evaluation noted.
Perceived challenges include ongoing funding of the program and recruiting sufficient volunteer support to run classes.
The evaluation, led by Dr Lisa Gibbs of The McCaughey Centre at the University of Melbourne, was based upon multiple methods including interviews and focus group discussions involving children, parents and teachers.
One of the nice things about reading it is that the voices of the children themselves are strongly featured, which lends a freshness and authenticity to the document.
The evaluation is dated October 2009, but Croakey only recently discovered it thanks to this link from Australian Policy Online.