Objectives of school nutrition garden
- To help in addressing malnutrition & micro nutrient deficiencies by consumption of freshly grown vegetables.
- To give children first-hand experience with nature and gardening.
- To enhance the knowledge of children regarding nutritional aspects of vegetables and harmful effects of junk food.
Need and benefits of school nutrition gardens
School Nutrition (Kitchen) Gardens have many advantages; some of them are as under:
- Good for learning : School Nutritional (Kitchen) Gardens are good for learning: they are highly practical and a direct form of education, where children can learn how to grow good food, which not only improves health, but also provides opportunities for livelihood and increased self-sufficiency. Apart from practical skills in agriculture and horticulture, gardens are a living laboratory for the study of environmental issues and life sciences.
- Essential for children's health : These gardens are good for children's health and education: A good diet is essential for cognitive abilities which help in learning. Children who eat well likely to learn well. School Nutrition (Kitchen) Gardens are not just for food, but for better eating and they can make a direct and immediate improvement in children's diet. They can provide fruit and vegetables, rich in vitamins and minerals, add nutritional value to Mid-Day Meals, increase the variety that is so important for health and growth and help children to appreciate and enjoy this variety.
- Improve environment : School Nutrition (Kitchen) Gardens improve the environment : Respect for the immediate environment begins at home - and also at School. The school grounds have elements of the natural environment, the built environment and the social environment: earth, plants and trees, insects and wildlife, sun and shade; water supply and sanitation facilities, paths and fences, buildings and shelters; places for recreation and study,social life and contacts with the outside world. Children's awareness of these, and the way they learn to treat them, will help them to grow into responsible adults.
- School Nutrition (Kitchen) Gardens are good for the earth : Organic gardening conserves the soil, protects the environment and works with nature rather than against it. It is a method of growing food that relies on the earth's natural resources, such as land, sun, air,rainfall, plants, animals and people. It uses natural methods to keep the soil fertile and healthy and to control insects, pests and diseases. Organic methods can help keep our water sources clean and free of chemicals. It is also safer for children because there are no dangerous chemicals.
- Good for child's well being : Children who are close to nature relate to it as a source of wonder, joy, and awe. Wonder, rather than books, words, or learning all the facts, provides the direction and impetus for environmental education in early childhood. Environmental education during the early years should be based on this sense of wonder and the joy of discovery.
- Increases confidence in students : It is forum thorugh which students can reach out to influence, engage their parents and neighbourhood communities to promote sound environmental behavior. It will empower students to explore environmental concepts and actions beyond the confines of a syllabus or curriculum. While everyone, everywhere, asserts the importance of ‘learning to live sustainably,’ environment largely remains a peripheral issue in the formal schooling system. Students of all the Schools need to be encouraged to participate in the Eco- Club as an active member.
School Nutrition Gardens and climate change
There is overwhelming evidence that human activities are affecting the climate and this has implications for human health. Plants, trees, vegetable and fruits play an important role in reducing the harmful effects of climate change. Deforestation is one of the major reasons why the quality of air has degraded to an all-time low. The loss of trees and other vegetation can cause climate change, desertification, soil erosion, fewer crops, flooding, increased greenhouse gases in the atmosphere etc.
The School Nutrition (Kitchen) Garden is therefore not only good for the School but it is also good for the environment because it reduces the carbon footprint of food by decreasing the number of miles it takes to get vegetables, fruits, legumes and pulses from the farm to Mid Day Meal kitchen. If plants, trees, vegetable and fruits are planted in the School Nutrition (Kitchen) Garden and at home, it will help store carbon from the atmosphere into the soil.
Organic local vegetable and fruits that are in season may be planted in the School Nutrition (Kitchen) Garden rather than transporting food from far away, whether by truck or jeep which uses fossil fuels for fuel and for cooling to keep foods in transit from spoiling thereby increasing the carbon footprints.
Planting trees in the School Nutrition (Kitchen) Gardens shall be an initiative towards reducing the harmful effects of climate change. There are approximately 11.75 lakh Government and Government aided schools India and these School Nutrition (Kitchen) Gardens can have a very substantial impact on the climate.
Set up Eco-Clubs in all Schools
The Eco Clubs established in the School shall be headed by the Principal/Headmaster/Head Teacher. Preferably, two teachers per School and one class in charge will assist in carrying out activities. All the Students, teachers, and parents of the children may be members of Eco Clubs. The Students Coordinator, in each class may encourage the participation of students. The head of the Eco-Club shall be responsible for execution of the activities of the Club with the help of another Teacher. Plantation activities may be carried out under Eco-Club activities.
The Principal / Head teacher may be the team leader for establishment and maintenance of the School Nutrition (Kitchen) Gardens at School level with the help of students, SMC members, and interested persons from community etc.
Under the ‘flexi fund component for innovative interventions’ in Mid Day Meal Scheme, an amount of Rs 5000/- per School Nutrition (Kitchen) Garden may be utilized for purchase of seeds, equipment, compost etc. on sharing basis between Centre and States & UTs. Moreover, as the power for implementing the scheme with minor modifications from the existing guidelines has been delegated to District Level Committee chaired by the District Magistrate, the committee may rationalize and allot funds on the basis of School specific requirement, within the overall average of Rs 5000/- per School Nutrition (Kitchen) Garden.
Planning and Monitoring of School Nutrition (Kitchen) Gardens
Schools may consider each class putting in one to two hours a week, with children taking on occasional extra responsibility for an extra half hour to an hour a week on a voluntary basis or in rotation. Each class can work separately from the others, with some coordination to avoid overlap. The class can be divided into teams or groups which can work on their own beds and also contribute to assigned tasks. This arrangement can foster class pride.
Individual students or small teams can specialize in particular technical responsibilities, with impressive titles such as "Pump Engineer", "Tool Manager", "Security Team" and "Compost King". Children should be able to call on these “specialists” for information and advice. It is very important to decide on a calendar of activities. It is vital to incorporate the activities of School Nutrition (Kitchen) Garden - e.g. when does the garden season begin and end, timings for different activities, planting of vegetables etc.
Children should inspect their crops every day - on the way to class, during breaks, or going home. Establishing this habit early in the year by leading the whole class out for five minutes every morning will be very beneficial.
Preparing the site and layout
Plain Terrain is most convenient. Steep slopes need terracing. Stones and pebbles can be used for making walls. Tools may also be provided by KVKs. Some schools manage without any tools or equipment of their own at all.
The main elements are beds, paths, plant nurseries, compost heaps and a garden shed. Activities like construction of boundary wall, levelling of land etc can be take up under MGNREGA. Good water supply provides an opportunity to decide when to plant and when to harvest. If water is scarce or expensive, measures like water conservation, drip irrigation may be taken to optimise water use. Remember that plants need plenty of sunlight (at least eight hours a day).
Compost is rich in nutrients. It is used, in gradens and organic farming. The compost itself is beneficial for the land in many ways, including as a soil conditioner, a fertilizer, addition of vital humus or humic acids, and as a natural pesticide for soil. Compost is useful for erosion control, land and stream reclamation, wetland construction, and as landfill cover.
Rules for Vermicomposting
- The school children may be encouraged to carry out the activity.
- A bin made from untreated, non-aromatic wood may be used in the School Nutrition (Kitchen) Gardens for vermicomposting.
- Children may be encouraged to prepare the pit with some form of bedding, such as shredded paper, residues of cereals, pulses and peels of vegetable and fruits from Mid day Meal kitchen and decaying leaves may be used to fills the bin and mixes with a few handfuls of soil and the worms.
- The vermicomposting process takes three to six months. The quality of the compost depends on many factors. Let the school students explore what they may be.
- Earthworms are helpful in a vermicompost. There are two types of earthworms namely burrowing and non-burrowing types. Red earthworm species, like Eisenia foetida, are most efficient in compost making. The non-burrowing earthworms eat 10 percent soil and 90 percent organic waste materials; these convert the organic waste into vermicompost faster than the burrowing earthworms. They can tolerate temperatures ranging from 0 to 40c. The burrowing types of earthworms come onto the soil surface only at night.
- Technical support regarding vermicomposting may also be obtained from KVKs, State Agriculture/Horticulture departments.
Organic Solid Waste : Green Waste
Composting in a process for converting decomposable organic materials into useful stable products. Therefore, landfill space can be used for other wastes by composting these materials rather than dumping them on landfills. The green waste from the kitchen of Mid day Meal may be used to fill the land fill for composting.
Drip Irrigation for School Nutrition Gardens
Drip irrigation is a type of micro-irrigation system that has the potential to save water and nutrients by allowing water to drip slowly to the roots of plants, either form above the soil surface or buried below the surface. The goal is to place water directly into the root zone and minimize evaporation. Drip irrigation systems distribute water through a network of valves, pipes, tubing, and emitters.
Drip Irrigation is an efficient and simple way to grow plants and the major benefits are as under :
- Higher consistent quality yields
- Huge water savings : no evaporation, no run off, no waste
- 100% land utilization - drip irrigates uniformly in any topography and soil type
- Energy savings : drip irrigation works on low pressure
- Efficient use of fertilizer and crop protection.
- Less dependency on weather, greater stability and lower risks
Child safety in the Garden
It is essential that the garden is safe for children and to ensure this please do the following:
- Select the correct - sized tool.
- Keep sprays and fertilizers out or reach.
- Do not use chemicals. Garden organically whenever possible.
- Provide safe storage for equipment and tools.
- Secure fences and gates.
- Limit the exposure to high sunlight and warm temperature.
- Make sure that where it's appropriate, children wear suitable clothes.
- Do not leave buckets of water unattended around very young children.
Getting Children Interested in Gardening
Children can be involved and motivated to create a garden by letting them carry out the following activities :
- Simple activities under Eco-Clubs for gardening.
- Give them their own garden space, this does not have to be big and you can start with a large container or a few pots.
- Involve older children in the planning and design of the garden.
- Use lightweight, easy-to-handle, correct-sized tools and garden equipment.
- Encourage children to dig in the soil. (younger children love making mud structures)
- Grow interesting plants such as sunflowers, corn, pumpkins, tomatoes and potatoes
- Plant flowers that attract butterflies, ladybirds and other interesting insects or birds.
- Install a water feature (a birdbath).
- Set up a vermicomposting pit.
- Visit community gardens, children's farms or botanic gardens for ideas
Source: Ministry of Human Resource Development