School gardening in Bhutan: Evaluating outcomes and impact

School gardening interventions have been touted as an effective approach to improve children’s eating habits in developed countries, but there is little evidence for their impact in developing countries. We studied the combined effect of school gardens linked to complementary lessons and promotional activities on the eating behavior and nutritional status of 9- to 15-year-old schoolchildren in Bhutan.We also studied the effect on a range of secondary indicators derived from the impact pathway. We used data from 468 schoolchildren in 9 control and 9 treatment schools following a randomized controlled trial design. We found that the school gardening intervention significantly increased children’s awareness about vegetables, their knowledge about sustainable agriculture, and their preferences for healthier foods. We found an 11.7-percentage point increase in the probability that children included vegetables in their meals (p < 0.05), but not in the number of different fruits or vegetables consumed. These results support the idea that comprehensive school garden interventions, combining gardening with education and promotion, can positively influence food preferences and food behavior in developing countries.

Pepijn Schreinemachers, Bal Bdr Rai, Desang Dorji, Hsiao-pu Chen, Thinley Dukpa, Namgay Thinley, Passang Lhamo Sherpa, Ray-Yu Yang. 2016. School gardening in Bhutan: Evaluating outcomes and impact. FOOD SECURITY.