Encourage Children to Eat More Fruits & Vegetables by Making a Garden

JAMESTOWN, NEW YORK (March 7, 2017) -- Cornell Cooperative Extension Chautauqua County’s EFNEP Program would like to remind parents to encourage their children to eat more fruits and vegetables. The U.S. Department of Agriculture estimates that more than 60 percent of our children do not eat the recommended amount of fruits and vegetables they need. Now with spring just around the corner, gardening is an excellent way to encourage and increase your child’s consumption of these vitamin-rich foods. Gardening is fun, plain and simple. The process involves dirt and water and digging, and it yields hours of fun, a lifetime of memories and most importantly, fresh and tasty treats that nourish growing bodies. So, how do you start a garden with your family?

Seeds can be started in small pots or you can get creative and use lemon rinds, egg cartons or toilet paper rolls. Planting seeds allows children to see the very beginning of a plant and get to the root of their food, literally.

Us fun containers, anything with drainage (you can always drill holes in the bottom) can be a planter. Old work boots, rain boots, toy boxes, wading pools, sand buckets, coffee cans, old sinks, watering cans, tires and ice cream containers are some idea of fun containers to use for your garden. Let your children get involved and get creative.

Allow children to choose the plants that will be grown, harvested and eaten by your family. Encourage a variety of old favorites, new things to try and of course, a rainbow of flavors. Plant a rainbow garden by planting, strawberries, sweet orange peppers, Squash, Sugar snap peas, Blueberries, eggplant.

Give your child ownership in their garden by allowing them to lead the way. Standing back may mean you have to sneak out and help with some garden maintenance, but the pride they’ll take in the ownership of their garden is worth it. Encourage fun in the process by allowing them to dig in the dirt, water the plants, push their own wheel barrow, pull the weeds and even (pretend) to mow the lawn. Older children may delight in keeping a scrapbook or journal to make their progress and success. The process of gardening is just as much fun as reaping its harvest. Celebrate the work by cooking your harvests with simple preparations to bring out the fresh flavors and encourage your child to be a part of that process as well.

The EFNEP Program is one of many programs offered by Cornell Cooperative Extension of Chautauqua County (CCE-Chautauqua). CCE-Chautauqua is a subordinate governmental agency with an educational mission that operates under a form of organization and administration approved by Cornell University as agent for the State of New York. It is tax-exempt under section 501(c) (3) of the Internal Revenue Code. The association is part of the national cooperative extension system, an educational partnership between County, State, and Federal governments. As New York’s land grant university Cornell administers the system in this state. Each Cornell Cooperative Extension association is an independent employer that is governed by an elected Board of Directors with general oversight from Cornell. All associations work to meet the needs of the counties in which they are located as well as state and national goals. For more information, call 716-664-9502 or visit our website at www.cce.cornell.edu/chautauqua. Cornell University Cooperative Extension provides equal program and employment opportunities.


Iris Ruiz
EFNEP Nutrition Educator
716-664-9502 ext. 217

Last updated March 7, 2017