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Seed to Table Education Exposes Children to Fresh Produce

The Issue

Despite California’s agricultural bounty, many Contra Costa County children lack knowledge of where their food comes from; they have never been to a farm, nor have they eaten freshly harvested produce. Many are from low-income families and do not have access to healthy foods at home. Research shows that a diet low in produce is associated with poor health outcomes, including obesity and impaired school performance. Childhood obesity rates in Contra Costa County range from 36% to 44%.

What Has ANR Done?

The "Seed to Table" Education Program at the Mangini Agricultural Museum began in 2003 and operates through an ongoing collaboration between the Contra Costa Fair, the UCCE Nutrition Education and Master Gardener Programs, and the local Farm Bureau. The program's goals are to educate children about the food continuum; help increase fruit and vegetable consumption through tasting experiences; motivate adults to provide students with opportunities to grow produce; and use the garden to make science and math come alive. In 2012-2013, 1,635 students, 63 teachers and 407 chaperones participated in the program. The majority of these students were from low-income families.

The Payoff

Youth discover where their food comes from and taste garden-fresh produce

Students and adult chaperones were excited to taste a wide range of freshly harvested, nutritious produce. A previous UCCE study revealed that food tasting positively affects children’s willingness to try new fruits and vegetables and ask for them again at home. Surveyed teachers agreed that their students were more aware of the origin of food after participating in the program, rating it an excellent field trip experience that they would recommend to other teachers. Awareness of the food continuum and tasting a variety of fresh fruits and vegetables can entice students and adult participants to make healthier food choices; increase their consumption of fresh produce; and consider growing food at school, community or home gardens.

Clientele Testimonial

“There were hands-on opportunities for students at every station.” “Information was relevant to California (academic) standards.” “Thank you for helping children understand where our food comes from.” —Contra Costa teachers


Supporting Unit: Contra Costa County

Contra Costa County: Marisa Neelon, mqneelon@ucanr.edu, (925) 646-6128