How can parents get children to eat more vegetables? Make them more aware of—and involved in—how vegetables are grown, say researchers at Audencia Nantes in France. Last year, they concluded EducAlim, a three-year study conducted by Audencia’s Center for Research and Food Product Marketing and financed by the French government. The goal: Find ways to encourage kids to eat healthier foods.
In the experiment, 584 middle school students at 17 schools across western France were followed for three years. Among them, 250 students at eight pilot schools participated in gardening activities, cooking workshops, and farm visits. Teachers also exposed this group of students to the nutritional, economic, cultural, and ecological aspects of growing and distributing vegetables. Then, researchers focused their attention on two vegetables particularly unpopular among children: Brussels sprouts and endive. They found that children at the pilot schools ate twice the amount of those vegetables—which they had grown in their gardens—as the children at the other nine schools.
Teachers also used teaching modules developed by the research team and educational authorities, which incorporated food issues into math, French, and biology lessons. The lessons were so successful, teachers have continued to use them even after the project ended in June 2014.