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NC State Extension

Garden-Enhanced Nutrition Education

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children cooking

Students making a cabbage slaw

Garden-Enhanced Nutrition Education actively engages youth in understanding about healthy foods utilizing seasonal, local produce to build a meaningful connection to the growing experiences that youth are participating in.

For example, students may be cultivating a winter crop of kale that they harvest for a cooking class to make massaged kale salad. Research suggests that students that have grown their own fruits and vegetables are more willing to try and taste them.

Curriculum and Lesson Plans

  • Junior Master Gardener through Texas A&M University and Texas Agrilife Cooperative Extension’s 4-H program have developed an evidence-based curriculum, Learn, Grow, Eat and GO! that weaves together gardening, nutrition education and physical activity.
  • Rainbow Recipes – Eating a rainbow is a great way to explore the nutrition in fruits and vegetables from the garden!
  • Garden Water – Encourage drinking more water by adding flavor from the garden!
  • Dip Trio – Every kid loves a tasty dip for their veggies from the garden. Put them in charge of making a dip with these ideas.
  • Super Seedy Trail Mix Fractions – Grow sunflowers and pumpkins and harvest the seeds to make this mathematically delicious snack!
  • Cooking with Radiation – Bring science and cooking together by exploring the effects of using a microwave to cook sweetpotatoes.
  • Food Miles – How far has your food traveled? Work with students to understand the pros and cons of food miles.
  • USDA-FNS Team Nutrition has developed a number of garden-enhanced curriculum resources including: Serving up MyPlate (elementary), The Great Garden Detective Adventure (Grades 3 & 4), and Dig In! (Grades 5 & 6).
  • Edible Schoolyard – a database of lessons and recipes that have been submitted by educators across the country.

N.C. Cooperative Extension – Nutrition and Health Resources

  • North Carolina Cooperative Extension’s EFNEP (Expanded Food and Nutrition Education Program) offers free (income guidelines apply) nutrition classes to help families and youth cook healthy meals at home, be more active, save money on food costs, and handle food safely. In partnership with the Eat Smart Move More NC initiative, EFNEP Educators help families and youth adopt positive health behaviors to achieve and maintain a healthy weight. EFNEP is a program of Cooperative Extension through NC State University and NC A&T State University.
  • NC State Extension’s Steps to Health is a SNAP-Ed (Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program) funded program that integrate fresh fruits and vegetables into healthy eating nutrition programs.
    • Steps to Health has lessons for every grade and the 4th grade program inspires students to plant, grow, and try a variety of vegetables while learning about nutrition and physical activity. Each lesson includes taste tests, physical activity, gardening experiences, and educational
      Contact your local county Cooperative Extension office to learn more!
  • Local Foods Nutrition and Health portal has many seasonal recipes that can be used in a classroom and videos that show basic cooking skills that can be used to teach youth.

Primary Contact:
Liz Driscoll
4-H Youth Specialist
Departments of Crop and Soil Sciences, Entomology and Plant Pathology and Horticulture Science
NC State University