As the garden grows, so does the gardener

Nel 1995 Alice Waters ha iniziato un progetto chiamato The Edible Schoolyard (ESY) per promuovere l'educazione alimentare nelle scuole elementari. Sebbene i giardini-scuola non risolveranno il problema dell'obesità infantile, sono un terreno di partenza. Al crescere dei giardini-scuola, si spera che crescano pure i nostri piccoli giardinieri in adulti sani.

When children and gardens are mentioned in the same sentence, usually an image of children playing arises. However, this time children aren't playing in the garden, they are its cultivators and curators. It may seem like an exaggerated way to get children excited about eating their veggies, but that, more than ever, has become crucial.

In 1995 Alice Waters began a project called The Edible Schoolyard (ESY) to promote the education of food in grade schools. The idea was to have children interact with food in a new way by involving them in the gardening process. They would grow their own gardens and gain perspective on food transformation and nourishment value. Her efforts have resulted in school gardens all across the United States.

More attention has been brought to these gardens in recent years due to the ever growing problem of childhood obesity. The problem is not confined only to the United States but has become an international issue. Statistics gathered by the Ministero della Salute show that approximately one out of every four children in Italy is affected. A 2008 study showed that approximately 23% of children in Italy are overweight while 12.3% are obese. While these numbers are expected to rise, it is not without a fight.

School gardens have been a project promoted also by Slow Food USA. The Slow Food movement is a crusade against food standardization and its global effects. Slow Food's website states, "Convivium school gardens offer [their] youngest eaters hands-on learning experiences about the food they eat and grow themselves."

The school garden project spread to Europe and in 2003, the project budded in Italy. By 2005 there were about 50 school gardens across the peninsula. Thanks to the 2006 Congresso nazionale di Slow Food Italia, the Italian project was officially named Orto in Condotta. The success of the project was so great that by 2008 there were already 183 Orti in Condotta.

The project is compromised of a three-year program. The program is based on dietary and environmental education by means of class activities and hands on work in the garden. Each year the activities rotate around a main theme. The first year's theme is garden and sensorial education; the second year is food and environment education, and the third year is the culture of food and knowledge of the area. Slow Food, teachers and parents work together as part of the project allowing it to become a community activity.

Although school gardens will not solve the problem of childhood obesity, it is a starting ground. As our school gardens grow, it is hoped that that our little gardeners grow as well -- into healthy adults.