Health in Motion: Family Garden Night a Catalyst for Farm to Table Style Cooking
May 26

Health in Motion: Family Garden Night a Catalyst for Farm to Table Style Cooking

By Kara Miles RN, BSN, CSN

Brought you by Let’s Move Pittsburgh, the Health in Motion blog series is intended to showcase the efforts of schools and community organizations in the Pittsburgh region who are leading children to a healthier future. A new project with a guest author or interviewee will be featured each month. Let’s Move Pittsburgh hopes that Health in Motion will encourage leaders to adopt healthy programs in their communities and inspire readers to make healthy changes in their own lives.

Kara Miles in the Elementary School Nurse and District Team Leader-School Health Personnel at South Fayette School District.

My elementary school is fortunate to have a wonderful Discovery Garden just outside of our building. This outdoor classroom was added at the end of the 2014 – 15 school year.  I wanted to bring community awareness and generate year-round excitement for our garden, so I initiated a Family Garden Night at the Elementary School, utilizing a Let’s Move Pittsburgh Champion Schools grant. I hoped that Family Garden Night would foster families' interest in using the vegetables from the garden in their home cooking. Thirty three families participated in Family Garden Night, which took place after school on an evening in April 2016. 

There were three stations for children and their parents to visit: a garden station, a nutrition station, and a cooking station. The children planted seeds for a “pizza garden," which could be brought back to plant in our school garden or used in a garden at their own house. University of Pittsburgh dietetic graduate students gave a lesson on nutrition, based on the vegetables and recipes for the food grown in the garden. At the cooking station, the children and their families created their own homemade pizza sauce and crust using foods and herbs that would be eventually be grown in our garden. The simple, healthy pizza recipe was prepared by each family during the event, and afterwards they took the pizza home to bake in their own kitchens. I had wonderful feedback from our families. The children really enjoyed the event. Each family was invited to participate in a survey to see if the event increased their interest in the Discovery Garden. Seventeen families participated in the survey. The responses indicated that the majority of the families knew more about the Discovery Garden after participating in the event. 100% of the surveyed families who responded stated they felt they could prepare a simple recipe using foods grown from a garden. 100% said they had an increased interest in the Discovery Garden. Here are just a few comments from the survey:

“I found the evening to be very engaging!  My kindergartner wants to plant his own garden so he can grow his own food.”

“The easy pizza recipe was great and it tasted really good. We refrigerated it overnight and cooked it the next day and it was perfect.”

“Great event! It was nice that our whole family could participate and be together!”

This event served as a wonderful catalyst to increase family awareness of the garden and foster interest in farm-to-table style cooking at home. My faculty is currently working to further incorporate our school garden into our K-2 curriculum to make the connection between healthy eating, plant growth and development, the environment, and our current STEAM initiatives.