Ask a first-grader if he likes spinach, and chances are you'll get a confident yuck. Do it again after he's had an opportunity to grow spinach at school, and he'll probably change his mind. That's what Sheri Zidenberg-Cherr, Ph.D., codirector of the UC Davis Center for Nutrition in Schools, in Davis, California, found when she asked elementary-school students to try six vegetables -- snow peas, spinach, and broccoli among them -- before and after they took part in a school-garden project as part of her study. "Many children who refused to try spinach before they grew it were now asking their parents to buy it to make at home," says Dr. Zidenberg-Cherr. Better still, the benefit persisted. The kids were just as apt to taste any of the veggies six months after the project ended as they were immediately following the harvest. Fortunately, it's a lot easier to plant a garden than it is to deal with feeding a picky child every night. Discover how five elementary schools across the country built gardens from the ground up. You'll come away with helpful tips and a veggie-packed, kid-approved recipe from each that you can try out at home.24th Street Elementary School
Any school would envy 24th Street's setup: It has 55 fruit trees, 16 vegetable-production beds, and shaded teaching areas on a little more than an acre of land. In 2005, the school began a partnership with the nonprofit Garden School Foundation, which developed a 400-page curriculum on integrating garden activities with classwork. It will be available to other schools next month. The students were constantly surprising us with the foods they'd try from the garden," says Julia Cotts, executive director of the foundation. "They were wild about these carrot tacos. I don't think there was a kid who didn't like them."