Kindergardens for All

Public school gardens are a frontline response to the obesity epidemic. So why aren’t there more of them?

Illustration: Von Glitschka


In 1995, California state superintendent of education Delaine Easton pledged that each school in California would someday grow a garden. With research showing that children who plant and harvest their own fruits and vegetables are more likely to eat healthy food, gardens are seen as a frontline response to the obesity epidemic. Additionally, kids who are exposed to environment-based education score higher on standardized tests than students who aren’t. That’s why, in 2006, California allotted $15 million to “starting and sustaining” school garden programs. And where state budget support ends, sometimes community grants and corporations kick in: Kaiser Permanente in Northern California, for example, funds a growing number of school gardens as part of its efforts to encourage physical activity and healthful lifelong nutrition.

Today, more than a third of California’s some 9,000 public schools have a plot of food space.

Want to start a school garden, or find out how it’s been done elsewhere? Visit the California School Garden Network or the National Gardening Association’s Kids’ Program for more information.

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  • Elizabeth Gettelman is a former managing editor and public affairs director at Mother Jones. To follow her on Twitter, click here.