|dc.description.abstract||A healthy diet is vital for growth and development and poor diet in childhood can affect academic achievement and can create long-term health problems such as obesity, coronary disease, stroke and cancer (Poulton et al, 2002., Mikkilä,et al, 2005., Unicef, 2019). Childhood obesity is a major concern in Scotland and is linked to an unhealthy diet including ultra-processed foods which have high levels of fat, sugar and salt (HFSS foods) and low levels of vitamins and micronutrients (Food Standards Scotland, 2021).
Children eat what is familiar, so it is important that they have opportunities to experience a wide range of healthy foods early in life. They also are more likely to taste and eat food that they have grown themselves (Passy, Morris and Reed, 2010., Barratt Hacking et al, 2011) and research has supported a link between school gardening and increasing consumption of fruit and vegetables (De Sa and Lock, 2008., Parmer, et al 2009).
This study aimed to determine whether school gardening in Scotland is sufficiently developed to contribute to the drive to increase children’s consumption of fruit and vegetables as one initiative to tackle the high rate of obesity in Scottish children.
Questions about the extent of school gardening in Scotland; why some schools have developed gardens, and some have not; how a garden contributes to the work of the school and whether there are particular factors that inhibit the development of school gardens in Scotland have not been investigated and tackling these gaps in knowledge was the primary aim of this study.
An email questionnaire was sent to all schools in Scotland (total number 2580) to provide information about the school and the garden and 223 responses were received. The overall response rate of 9% was low and there was a very small number of responses from Past Gardening (13) and Non-Gardening schools (6). Exploration of the results was by descriptive analysis enabling illustrative display of the data obtained.
The results confirmed findings from previous studies that integrating the garden into schoolwork throughout the curriculum and across the age range, and having good support from managers, are important features of successful gardens. Engagement with the local community is also beneficial in providing support and gardening knowledge. The main motivators for school gardening were to teach children about healthy food and where it comes from, and the main barriers were finding time in the curriculum and the personnel needed to co-ordinate and supervise work in the garden. Teachers also expressed the need for training and protected time to plan and prepare for lessons in the garden. A particular problem highlighted in Scotland was the short growing season and problems adapting to school terms which finish at the end of June, which is the active growing season, so pupils may not be able to follow a plant from seed to cropping - and eating.
The results also showed that there were fewer gardens in schools with a high percentage of pupils from socially deprived areas. This was a concern as poor diet and obesity are more common in areas with high levels of deprivation. This raises the need for targeting resource to these areas for the development of gardens in the future.
This study can provide a first step towards increasing the availability of healthy food for children and opportunities for them to grow and eat fresh food which is essential for their healthy development in the short and the long-term.||en