Homegrown: The Benefits of Teaching Children How to Grow Food

Growing fresh food at home can be just as much an educational tool as it is a component of the pantry. The process of planting and harvesting fresh produce teaches children about food and the importance of healthy eating habits. Today the homegrown movement has caught fire: more people are growing their own food than ever before including the White House led by First Lady Michelle Obama who this month welcomed students to her Annual White House Garden Planting. With FoodCorps and the National Gardening Association, Mrs. Obama is encouraging children to get out and garden as part of her mission to establish healthy eating and lifestyle habits.

FLOTUS gardening with students.

Currently 1 in 3 households grow food. Over the last five years, the number of families food gardening increased from 12 million to 15 million. Food gardening provides families with fresh produce. But more importantly, it is a resource for education since children learn the skills needed and lifelong benefits of growing food.

3 Lessons Children Learn from Growing Produce at Home

  1. Responsibility and Commitment: For families, tending to a garden can be much like caring for a pet. The garden needs attention. It has to be watered and protected from pests. This is no easy task. For children to see the (literal) fruits of their labor, they must commit themselves to taking care of the garden and wait patiently for it to harvest.

  2. Importance of Local Food: Eating produce from a home garden is about as local as you can get. Many Americans are disconnected from where and how their food is produced. Teaching our children to grow and buy local food can lead to a cleaner food supply and shrink our carbon footprint. 

  3. One Aspect of a Healthy Lifestyle: Childhood obesity is a concerning epidemic. Teaching children the importance of a healthy lifestyle starts at home. Growing and eating fruits and vegetables encourages healthy habits for children to carry with them into their adult life.

During the First Lady's annual garden planting, Washington, D.C.-area students helped the First Lady plant the new pollinator garden where bees can gather pollen and spread it between the plants.

Students gardening in the White House Garden.

The garden which grows a multitude of fruits and vegetables was already sprouting leafy greens. That's where White House Executive Chef Cristita Comerford goes for fresh ingredients to cook meals including a kid favorite--pizza. I grabbed the recipe while at the event to try at home! 

White House Grilled Garden Pizza 

Serves 4

1 12 inch pizza dough, can use freezer dough

2 tbsp olive oil

1 eggplant, sliced, ½ inch thick

1 sweet potato, peeled, sliced thinly

1 red pepper, sliced, ¼ inch thick

Salt and pepper to taste

6 oz. tomato sauce, your favorite brand... or homemade!

6 oz. shredded mozzarella, lowfat

Chopped fresh basil, for garnish.

Toss the vegetables in olive oil and salt and pepper. Grill until softened but still a bit crunchy. Set aside.

Flatten the pizza dough until about 1/8 inch thick. Brush with olive oil. Season with salt and pepper. Grill on both sides for about 2 minutes on each side. Top with the tomato sauce, mozzarella, and grilled veggies. Garnish with basil. Serve immediately.

White House Executive Chef, Cristeta Comerford

Teaching our children the importance of growing food from an early age is necessary for promoting a healthy future. Gardening and cooking with children is not only beneficial for their education, but they also reap the benefits of the lesson. Brush the dust off of your gardening tools and get out and grow! 

HaleyFulford-TheWiseLatinaClub A food enthusiast and native Georgia Peach, Haley recently graduated from Appalachian State University with a Bachelors of Science in Sustainable Development. Currently interning at the United States House of Representatives, she is passionate about the outdoors, improved access to quality education for all, public policy, and documenting “from stress to success in the city.” Click here to read more about and connect with Haley.

Edited by Viviana Hurtado, Ph.D.

Are fruits and vegetables a regular part of your diet?