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School gardens are a big hit in Central Texas

Researchers at the University of Texas released data that proves school gardens get kids to eat more vegetables.

AUSTIN, Texas — The screams – you hear them from about a mile away.  

"We had to tamp down a little of the excitement," said Ann Star, a teacher at Govalle Elementary School in Austin ISD. 

But once they get to their school's garden, the students know it's all hands on deck. 

"We are out here checking on our gardens almost every day. Because of the heat, we have to water," added Star. "We have to water and weed regularly."

You might think kids don't enjoy this, but it's the moment when all those screams are muffled by the sound of digging shovels and water pouring down plant waterers. 

"They get the joy of growing their fruits and vegetables and then getting to eat what they've produced," said Star. 

Katie Nikah, projects coordinator at the University of Texas, said gardens like this one aim to get kids to eat more vegetables. 

"The more exposure that kids have to different foods, the more likely they are to try it, especially when they're planting it themselves," added Nikah.

Jaimie Davis, associate professor in the Department of Nutritional Sciences at the University of Texas, said they saw an increase in children's vegetable consumption. They were having up to an extra half a serving a day with these gardens. They also saw other improvements across the board. 

"We saw about a 5% improvement in glucose control, and we saw a 4% increase in academic performance," she added. "I think it's close to 10% reduction in lipids and about three to four minutes a day extra was spent in moderate to vigorous physical activity. So we also saw that physical activity levels improved."

So, increased focus in school, increased exercise and increased vegetable intake were all effects they saw from having gardens. This is also why programs like SproUTing Teachers are expanding. 

"The initial project was in 16 schools, and we're in close to over 30 schools," said Davis.

They don't plan on stopping there. 

"We're hoping to expand not only in different cities but in different states across the nation," she added.

In the meantime, Star's students are not only looking forward to picking what they planted but hoping they could spend more time outside. 

"We're looking forward to the cooler temperatures so that we can come out and not be so sweaty when we're finished with our work," added Star.

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