- One of seven kids who enter kindergarten is obese.
- The Journal of the American Dietetic Association published a study finding sixth-grade students involved in a garden-based nutrition education program increased their fruit and vegetable consumption by 2.5 servings per day, more than doubling their overall fruit and vegetable consumption. McAleese JD, Rankin LL. Garden-based nutrition education affects fruit and vegetable consumption in sixth-grade adolescents. J Am Diet Assoc. 2007;107:662-665.
Designed as an educational tool to inspire spontaneous play by children and create an attractive outdoor classroom for teachers, the non-profit The Kitchen [Community] developed an innovative raised bed system known as Learning Gardens to combat obesity at schools around the U.S. “Our hope is that the Learning Gardens will give children an understanding of food, healthy eating, and environmental stewardship through lesson plans and activities that tie into the existing school curriculum,” says Kimbal Musk, co-founder of The Kitchen [Community].
Kimbal and his business partner Hugo Matheson own The Kitchen restaurants in Boulder, Colorado and have long supported school gardens in their area. After years of witnessing the power of school gardening programs, Kimbal became motivated to bring replicable, scalable Learning Gardens to the masses to battle childhood obesity.
The Kitchen [Community]’s raised beds were designed by Jen Lewin Studios. The curvilinear, modular beds can be shaped in any configuration to fit small and large sites and can be placed on asphalt and existing green spaces of participating schools. They can include built-in drip irrigation tubing to decrease the amount of time spent watering in any given week. In addition to vegetable plantings, a Learning Garden can include fruit trees, shrubs and perennials and provide an interactive outdoor space to connect children with real food.
Since its inception in 2011, The Kitchen [Community] has installed 14 gardens in Boulder and Denver, Colorado as well as Chicago, Illinois. This school year, Learning Gardens will also be installed in Los Angeles, Boston and Pittsburgh. In each city that they work in, The Kitchen [Community] partners with local non-profits to support installation and program development to ensure the sustainability of the garden. In Chicago, for example, The Kitchen [Community] has partnered with nonprofit partners Openlands, Purple Asparagus, and Common Threads to mentor the Learning Garden grantees.
The Kitchen [Community] aspires to continue to increase their reach across the U.S. - either by providing their Learning Garden modular beds or working directly with local non-profits to create community and healthy kids with fresh food. Go to www.thekitchencommunity.org to learn more.
Meet Contributing Author, Jaime Zaplatosch
Jaime Zaplatosch started with Openlands in 2004 as the Education Coordinator. During her time with Openlands, the organization’s school-based programs has grown to include a substantial school gardens program, Building School Gardens, and Eco-Explorations for elementary and high school students at the Openlands Lakeshore Preserve. In 2009 Jaime was promoted to Education Director and was selected as a 2009 Awardee of the Community Renewal Society’s 35 Under 35.
Jaime has helped create school gardenings at more than 100 schools throughout the Chicago. A certified permaculture designer, she is a member of the KidsGardening national advisory board.