Each night at dinner tables across Australia, frustrated parents say to their children: "Eat your vegetables!"
The Hunter Medical Research Institute (HMRI) has been awarded more than $41,000 by Coles for an Australian first study which may provide solutions to this age-old parent-child power struggle.
The HMRI Coles grant will allow Dr Philip Morgan from the University of Newcastle's School of Education and his research team to investigate whether a school garden can improve nutritional awareness and eating behaviours amongst school children.
"There is an urgent need to investigate new ways of integrating nutrition, education and food provision in schools to provide consistent and important health messages to children," said Dr Morgan.
According to Dr Morgan, changes in food intake and habits including the way that we eat, the price of food and the availability of food, may play a significant role.
"Today, children's meals are less likely to have been prepared by their parent or carer, are more likely to consist of highly processed foods and may be eaten quickly, away from the dinner table," said Dr Morgan.
"Experiences in the garden and the kitchen foster a better understanding of how the natural world is sustained and where food comes from. We will look at whether children who have helped grow vegetables in a school garden have an increased preference for vegetables, and whether there is a change in their vegetable intake.
"If the current study indicates positive results it has the potential to be rolled out on a larger scale and radically change the approach to food, nutrition and health education in schools."
The research will be conducted in collaboration with the HMRI Public Health Research Program and will involve Year 5 and 6 students from St Catherine's Catholic College, Singleton, and one other school. Slow Foods (Hunter) is helping the children establish and sustain the garden.
"Students will be involved in planting, nurturing, and harvesting the crops, as well as cooking and enjoying the food," said Paul Williams, Principal of St Catherine's College.
HMRI is a partnership between the University of Newcastle, Hunter New England Health and the community.
Dr Philip Morgan (Lead researcher) and Paul Williams (Principal of St Catherine's College) are available for interview, please contact Lauren Eyles.