Local governments can invest in this strategy using State and Local Fiscal Recovery Funds (SLFRF) from the American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA).

  • This strategy can help promote healthy childhood environments. The U.S. Department of Treasury has indicated that strategies that help achieve this outcome are eligible for the use of Fiscal Recovery Funds.
  • Investments in this strategy are SLFRF-eligible as long as they are made in qualified census tracts or are designed to assist populations or communities disproportionately impacted by COVID-19.

Program overview

  • Providing food and learning opportunities to students: School fruit and vegetable gardens are generally located on school grounds and used to grow produce. Typically, gardens are used for extracurricular programming and as a tool to supplement formal instruction. School gardens may make students more willing to try fruits and vegetables as well as increase their fruit and vegetable consumption.

  • Offer hands-on learning opportunities: School gardens can be incorporated into lessons in a variety of subjects, including science, social studies, health, and English/language arts. Common topics addressed in lessons include garden ecosystems, nutrition, the historical and cultural significance of foods, and more.

  • Maintained by a variety of stakeholders: Garden committees are often established to maintain school fruit and vegetable gardens. Typically, a committee consists of a range of stakeholders, such as students, school staff, volunteers, and community partners. These groups are often responsible for selecting which plants to grow, purchasing supplies (e.g., soil, seeds, tools), providing regular maintenance (e.g., watering, weeding, controlling pests), and harvesting fruits and vegetables as they ripen.

  • Funded by government, community partners, and nonprofit organizations: School fruit and vegetable gardens can be funded in a variety of ways, including from school budgets, donations from parents and local businesses, and foundations, or via a business ventures model, where produce is sold to cover a portion of its operating costs.

Multiple studies with rigorous designs demonstrate that school fruit and vegetable gardens are a well-supported strategy to improve children’s willingness to try fruits and vegetables and increase their fruit and vegetable consumption.

  • A 2020 research synthesis identified school fruit and vegetable gardens as a scientifically supported strategy for increasing fruit and vegetable consumption and openness to trying new fruits and vegetables.
  • Incorporate the garden into additional programming: School fruit and vegetable gardens can increase students' willingness to try fruits and vegetables when they are combined with other activities such as school visits from farmers, field trips to local farms, taste testing fresh produce, and in-class lessons.

  • Provide curriculum resources and training to teachers: In order to fully incorporate school gardens into their classroom instruction, teachers need explicit professional learning opportunities and designated curriculum materials, particularly materials that align with mandated grade-level standards and can be embedded in existing curriculum.

  • Garner support from building and district administrators: School gardens are easier to establish and are more likely to lead to sustained usage when administrators encourage all teachers to visit the garden with their students, incorporate the garden space into school culture, and secure funding from community members/local philanthropy.

  • Engage with community members and local organizations: Building partnerships with community groups, volunteers, and nonprofit organizations can help distribute the labor required to maintain a school garden. Garden committees can be helpful in organizing these different groups, planning events, coordinating schedules, and delegating garden responsibilities.