When reporting on the food system, it’s easy to get caught in a cycle of doom and gloom. Thanks to the overwhelming amount of chemical-laden, genetically-engineered, highly-processed “food” in our culture, we’re obese, riddled with chronic disease and depressed.
Eating healthy is the first step toward solving many of these problems, yet just that simple change is a huge challenge for many. It starts with how we’re taught to eat in childhood (i.e., how we see our parents shop and cook food). Teaching kids (and adults) how to grow their own food sweeps away the mystery and empowers us to eat well without the hefty price tag.
Here’s where we get to the good news: I was thrilled to recently learn that an increasing number of U.S. school districts are participating in Farm to School programs, reflecting the growing popularity of local foods. According to the National Farm to School Network, 3,812 school districts serving nearly 21 million students in all 50 states now have Farm to School programs, compared to just 400 school districts in 22 states in 2004.
This is amazing! A welcome antidote to the headlines about school kids eating pink slime and other nasty stuff.
“Farm to School participants implement healthy, nutritious school meals incorporating local food products and school gardens as well as lessons in health, nutrition, food and agriculture,” reports EcoWatch. “Activities can include school gardens, student field trips to farms, farmer visits to schools, farm to school concepts integrated into school curriculum and cafeteria food coaches encouraging kids to eat healthy and local foods.”
In celebration of this awesome program, we decided to round up examples of some truly stunning school gardens, along with some info about how they work. Want your kids to enjoy all the benefits of a school garden? Scroll to the bottom for links to more info.
1. Rooftop Garden at Eastdale Collegiate Institute, Toronto
FoodShare is a non-profit organization working to address food and hunger issues. Recently, they helped turn an underutilized 16,000 square foot school rooftop into a massive hub of locally grown food and education. Over 18 months, they installed the School Grown Rooftop Garden at Eastdale Collegiate Institute — with 450 garden beds, an indoor classroom and a patio with seating for over 200 people.
2. The Youth Farm at the High School for Public Service, Brooklyn
Created with help from Green Guerrillas, this is an educational production farm in central Brooklyn. The single acre garden offers young New Yorkers the opportunity to increase their knowledge of the food system and build high level organic growing skills to share with their communities. The Youth Farm produces organic food and flowers, and offers advanced farm training and leadership opportunities for youth and adults.
3. “Garden of Learning“ at Gary Knox Elementary School, Yuma, Ariz.
Less than a year after building 63 raised beds and planting the “Garden of Learning” the community has already seen major benefits. ”Our kids learn so much from the garden. The science test results of the fourth-grade students increased 17 percent over last year’s numbers, which I believe is a result of the garden,” Principle Laura Hurt told the Yuma Sun. Students take most of the products home to share with their families, but they also donated 675 pounds of zucchini, green beans, tomatoes, watermelons and honeydew to the Yuma Community Food Bank after their June harvest.
4. Public Schools Throughout the City of Chicago!
When the Chicago Public School system decided to permanently close over 50 public schools in June of this year, hundreds of students were displaced. The schools picking up the slack faced even bigger problems: trying to find a way to absorb the new students with limited space and budgets. In response, The Kitchen Community, a 501c3 nonprofit, sprang into action. The organization, which connects kids to nutritious food through gardening, decided to install Learning Gardens throughout the Chicago school system. Even better — up to 50 of the 80 new gardens to be installed were earmarked for schools designated to receive displaced children.
5. The Garden Station at the Abington Friends School in Jenkintown, Penn.
Inhabitots reports: ”The Garden Station, created by Metcalfe Architecture & Design, is an open-ended centerpiece that stands adjacent to their Nature Playground and early childhood classrooms. The Garden Station is a play space that was designed to anchor the garden experience. Built to reflect the Reggio-informed learning principles that form the base of the school’s philosophy, the structure is a welcoming and child-directed spot where young children initiate their own activities.
School Gardening Resources: