Researchers evaluate national kitchen garden program in schools

Green thumbs, adventurous attitudes to food and improvement of social behaviours are just a handful of the positive outcomes from a multi-million dollar Government in-school kitchen garden program, research has found.

Researchers from UOW’s Australian Health Services Research Institute (AHSRI) have recently released findings of a two-year Australian Government-funded independent evaluation of the Stephanie Alexander Kitchen Garden Program.

The Program, which aims to encourage and reinforce healthy, lifelong eating habits, has taken off since introduced by the Australian Government in 2008.

More than 35,000 children in 295 schools are now participating in the Program, which sees children between the ages of 8 and 12 learning how to grow, harvest, prepare and share fresh, seasonal and healthy food.

Associate Professor Heather Yeatman, who led the evaluation team, says around four out of five parents reported their children wanted to cook the same fresh and healthy food they had experienced through the Program at home and that they were more likely to try new foods.

“This study confirms that changing children’s food preferences is possible if the whole school shares the vision of engaging children in enjoyable, skill-based experiences,” she said.

The findings also showed that 86 per cent of teachers saw improvements in students’ teamwork skills and 50 per cent of parents witnessed improvements across a range of student behaviours, including modifying previous bullying behaviour, managing difficult behaviour, interacting with people of many ages, leadership skill development and sense of pride in the school.

For more about the evaluation, including the final report, visit


  • The UOW study found ninety seven per cent of teachers were positive about how the Program supported classroom learning.

  • More children are taking up cooking at home and starting backyard veggie gardens after participating in Australia’s revolutionary Kitchen Garden National Program.

  • Key academics involved in the evaluation Program (from left): Dr Deanne Condon-Paoloni and Associate Professor Heather Yeatman from the School of Health Sciences, with Pam Grootemaat form the Centre for Health Services Development.