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The new golden rule: grow vegetables at school
A project to promote school gardens in Africa and Asia aims to raise community awareness of health issues and decrease malnutrition
“Vegetables Go to School: Promoting Food Security and Nutrition through School-based Approaches,”
The event, hosted by the ASEAN-AVRDC Regional Network for Vegetable Research and Development (AARNET) with funds from the Taiwan Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MOFA), brought together country representatives, teachers, researchers, gardening specialists and others to discuss strategies for developing and promoting home and public vegetable gardens with a focus on nutrition. Vegetable gardens can contribute to food and nutritional security as the global climate changes and causes fluctuations in agricultural and horticultural productivity.
AVRDC – The World Vegetable Center (http://www.avrdc.org), a leading international nonprofit agricultural research and development institute, will partner with government ministries of agriculture, education and health to develop gardens and education programs for schools in each country. The vegetable garden programs will be linked with other school-based health, nutrition and environmental initiatives to strengthen the ability of people in local communities to enhance their health and livelihoods by producing and consuming more vegetables.
“School-based approaches are efficient and cost-effective because they build on the existing educational system to promote health and nutrition activities,”
Growing vegetables in school and home gardens is a proven method to actively engage students and families in improving their diets. Gardens encourage the consumption of a diversity of vegetables and fruit, which is particularly important when persuading children to favor a balanced and nutritious diet as part of a healthy lifestyle.
Vegetables provide the micronutrients needed for good health. A lack of essential vitamins and minerals in the diet causes physical stunting and mental impairment, leading to reduced potential for succeeding in education and in the workplace, and an increased susceptibility to common diseases. Worldwide, more than 2 billion people, particularly women and children, suffer from the “hidden hunger” of micronutrient deficiencies.
People in the targeted countries seldom are able to consume the daily 400 g of fruit and vegetables recommended by the Food and Agriculture Organization and the World Health Organization to provide adequate micronutrients for health. By producing their own vegetables, people can begin to take action to address the cost of or lack of access to regular supplies of nutritious food.
Home gardens also offer opportunities for income generation through the sale of extra produce. Most of the rural and even urban poor can grow vegetables regardless of their land resources, educational status, cash investment capacity or gender, as land needs and input costs are small and family labor is usually sufficient. Even where land is not readily available, options such as container gardening can contribute to household meals.
The Universities of Basel (Switzerland)