Researchers at the University of Leeds are working with the Royal Horticultural Society to find out if pupils who garden at school develop a taste for fruit and vegetables.
The project, led by University of Leeds Professor of Nutritional Epidemiology and Public Health, Janet Cade, will evaluate the RHS Campaign for School Gardening over two growing seasons.
The RHS launched Campaign for School Gardening in 2007, to help children develop important life skills through gardening and now has 11,500 schools gardening. By 2012, the RHS wants 80% of UK primary schools gardening.
Schools signed up to the Campaign say pupils learn so much through gardening and develop greater confidence, strong social skills, improved teamwork and co-operation skills and are keen to eat the food they grow themselves.
RHS Campaign for School Gardening London Advisor Jim Bliss, who will be advising and helping schools in the study, said: "I have seen for myself the dramatic results gardening can have on pupils - they are so proud when they have successfully grown potatoes or beans themselves, and are fascinated by wildlife. Every school should have a garden, no matter how big or small."
A total of 74 schools across London will be taking part in the study to look at the eating habits of pupils aged seven and eight. Researchers will see whether growing food through school gardens plays a role in the amount of fruit and vegetables children eat and their other food choices, such as snacks and soft drinks.
Over two years the schools will be visited regularly by Professor Cade's team. The children will be interviewed and asked to complete a food diary at the beginning and end of the study to assess whether school gardening has had an impact on their diet.
Professor Cade said: "On average, children eat two and a half portions of fruit or vegetables each day. This falls well below government recommendations of five portions a day, and our aim is to get closer to this goal."
The study, which has just begun, will be completed by 2012.
For more information
For interviews with Professor Janet Cade, contact Paula Gould in the University of Leeds press office on 0113 343 8059 or email email@example.com.