Degree Year


Document Type


Degree Name

Bachelor of Arts


Environmental Studies


Thomas Newlin

Committee Member(s)

Roger Laushman
Cheryl Wolf
Brad Masi


School gardens, Food education, Victory gardens, Environmental education, Oberlin schools


Many young people today do not learn to cook, or eat nutritious, regular meals together with their families, or go shopping for produce. Because of this, they do not have the opportunity to develop any real appreciation for food. To make matters worse, many public schools fail to teach students anything at all about the complex environmental and cultural history of food – how it is produced, preserved, prepared, and distributed. At the same time, schools serve lunches that often lack nutritional value. In this thesis, I argue the importance of giving students the opportunity to connect to food through school gardens and food education programs in schools. First, I trace the history and philosophical origins of school gardens, focusing particularly on the growth of school gardens and relevant literature at the turn of the 20th century and during the two world wars. I then examine the decline and subsequent rise of school gardens during the latter half of the 20th century and analyze two examples of current school gardening and food education programs in the United States: the Edible Schoolyard in Berkeley, California, and the Burlington School Food Project in Burlington, Vermont. Finally, I consider the feasibility of incorporating school gardens and food education into classrooms in Oberlin’s schools, and suggest that educating students to be “food literate” is one critical step towards addressing complex problems that we face today, including climate change and obesity.