School Gardens in the United States: Current Barriers to Integration and Sustainability

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Abstract

Objectives

To elucidate details about the barriers (time, funding, staffing, and space) to integrating and sustaining school gardens.

Methods

A total of 99 school gardeners from 15 states participated in an online survey in June 2017. The 29-item survey contained qualitative and quantitative items that we analyzed using descriptive statistics and inductive content analysis.

Results

In order of greatest to least barrier, gardeners ranked time, staff, funding, curriculum, and space. Time for classes to use the garden (66% of respondents) and time for staff training (62%) were the most frequently listed time-related challenges. Respondents also reported low engagement within the school community. An overall lack of funding was the most common funding-related barrier, and gardeners were unaware of how to obtain more funding.

Conclusions

We identified 3 aspects of school gardens as opportunities to address time- and staff-related issues: strengthening of garden committees, professional development, and community outreach. Better channels are needed to disseminate funding opportunities within schools and to communicate with communities at large. Ultimately, doing so will strengthen existing school gardens as a vehicle to promote dietary, physical, and social health within communities.

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