Recently, Texas Nutrition was able to catch up with Sr. Project Director of Texas Sprouts, Katie Nikah. Texas Sprouts is a research program that aims to study the effects of hands-on gardening and nutrition education on obesity, dietary intake, physical activity, and school performance of elementary school children. The program gives children the opportunity to learn about gardening and cooking during a regular school day. Texas Sprouts was funded by a grant from the National Institutes of Health. While there are few statistical studies on the effects of gardening on overall health, some studies have proven gardening to decrease stress levels and BMI, as well as increase the quality of life, level of physical activity, and cognitive function.1 Texas Sprouts is working to collect more data and expand research in this field. Texas Sprouts recently finished building their last garden, totaling 16 gardens for elementary schools across Austin. Over the past 3 years, Texas Sprouts has collected data on height, weight, BMI, waist circumference, body fat, and blood pressure of over 4,000 elementary school children. They are now entering the data analysis phase where UT students will be analyzing the effects of the garden program on childhood health and school performance to determine if the garden program has been successful in improving overall health of the students. The project has also partnered with Sprouts grocery store to teach the children about sustainable food and to implement garden clubs in each of the schools that will maintain the gardens after the end of the project.
If you would like to get involved, Texas Sprouts needs students to help with data analysis this Summer and upcoming Fall. They are also looking for people to help with garden maintenance over the summer, while students are gone. In the Fall, Sprouts will need additional students to help teach nutrition classes at 2 of the elementary schools. Teaching at these schools will be part of a new Nutrition 365 class starting in Fall 2019. The class will teach UT students how to implement community engagement such as gardening, cooking, and nutrition. This class will be a two-semester commitment. Anyone interested in getting involved with Texas Sprouts should email Katie Nikah at firstname.lastname@example.org!
Written by Katie Greer, Nutrition, Class of 2021.