Children and urban gardens: The future of food
At school, children learn a curriculum. But they also learn to interact, learn values and can also learn to love the planet. When assuming the daunting task of instilling individual responsibility and respect for the land and the food it provides, urban gardens are the ideal classroom. Because there, children directly learn concepts and values with the added motivation of being active participants. Antananarivo and New York are two cities that have been able to benefit from projects that include urban gardens in schools. Did you know about these initiatives?
The challenge of producing more and better food
In Antananarivo, the capital of Madagascar, a mountainous area located in the central part of the island, population growth has led to increased malnutrition rates. Many children depended on food provided to school canteens by the World Food Programme (WFP) and the Ministry of Education of Madagascar. That way, the children were assured access to rice, vegetables, oil, salt and some fresh produce.
The objective was clear: to diversify children’s diets, and improve food security and school performance. Therefore, a few years ago, the local government launched micro-garden projects in 21 schools with the collaboration of the Department of Green Spaces, Environment and Urban Agriculture, the French region of Ile-de-France and the WFP. Children received technical assistance for growing vegetables in sacks of rice. Thanks to this project, in addition to disseminating urban agriculture among students and families, a total of 15,000 children received vegetables two or three times a week as part of their school meals.
Inspiring initiatives sprouting around the globe
Years later, New York City took on a great challenge: that every public school should have a sustainable school garden. Thus was born “Grow to Learn NYC: the Citywide School Garden Initiative”, a programme that provides technical assistance and materials for the installation of school gardens. Since its inception, in 2010, it has established a network of more than 800 gardens in the five boroughs of New York, and continues to dedicate its efforts to inspire, promote and facilitate the creation of these sustainable spaces through 40 educational workshops each year, a monthly newsletter with educational resources, and mini grants aimed at expanding school gardens.
Achieving real change is up to everyone, including future generations. And what is most exciting, apart from the results, is that there is not just one way to achieve this. What other similar initiatives do you know?