Abstract| Volume 45, ISSUE 4, SUPPLEMENT , S14, July 2013

Spilling the Beans: A Preschool Gardening and Nutrition Education Curriculum to Increase the Use of Dry Edible Beans


      To increase children’s knowledge of gardening, MyPlate concepts, and different varieties of dry edible beans; to improve knowledge of the health benefits associated with beans among parents or caregivers; and to improve the families’ consumption of beans.

      Target audience

      Forty seven preschool children and their families in 2 preschool centers participated in the pilot project.

      Theory, Prior Research, Rationale

      Informed by social cognitive theory, this project builds on the potential of gardening as a means of teaching nutrition concepts.


      As part of an 8-lesson curriculum, preschool children listened to stories, planted and harvested a variety of beans, and participated in sensory evaluation of ten recipes. Parents were given a weekly nutrition newsletter summarizing their child’s activities, along with nutrition information, recipes and a can of beans.


      Observations of children and pre/post surveys among parents were used to measure attitude, knowledge and behavior changes. Frequency data were analyzed using the SPSS computer program. Parents/caregivers significantly increased their knowledge of beans as a source of fiber and folate with potential health benefits. The use of canned beans among the families significantly increased (P < .05). Children rated bean-containing recipes highly and consumed more beans during preschool. The recipes were incorporated in the menus. About 88% of the parents reported reading the newsletter, 69% said their child talked about beans, 83% reported that their child talked about the gardening, and 85% of the children talked about tasting bean recipes.

      Conclusions and Implications

      Children’s literature and gardening were effective means of teaching children and their families about nutrition and dry edible beans.