26 Jul Urban Gardens
In the spring of 2017, the Kate & Justin Rose Foundation, through a grant generously provided by Dr. Phillips Charities, installed vertical aeroponic garden towers at Orange Center Elementary. Each month the towers were moved to a new classroom where they were planted, cultivated and harvested by a new group of children. The very first harvest was shared with the entire school to introduce the towers and create excitement. This was done via “salad in a bag” which the children harvested, cleaned, bagged and took home with an explanation on how it was grown and how to incorporate it into their meals.
Teachers integrated the towers into their curriculums using the towers as a teaching tool for science (the growth cycle and the impact of artificial light versus natural light on crops), health (the impact of healthy eating), math (the distribution and division of crops to the number of children needed) and other areas. Different greens were harvested during the year, allowing for discussions and development of recipes for the crops.
Most importantly, it introduced the children to the concept and joys of growing their own produce and how satisfying and nutritious it is to literally eat the “fruits of their labor.” Where children normally are not fond of lettuces and greens, when they grow it themselves, they are very excited to share it with their friends and families. The children who receive the crops are part of the Blessings in a Backpack programme funded by the Rose Foundation. The Blessings in a Backpack programme provides shelf-stable weekend nutrition to students on the Federal Free and Reduced meal plan. The Gardens programme supplements the weekly food by providing fresh greens to the backpacks.
The children are becoming urban farmers and and learning the joy of growing food. We are very grateful to Dr. Phillips Charities for the funding to create the programme, to Atlantic Beach Urban Farms for their support and instruction, and to the Orange Center Elementary teachers and staff for their willingness to take on a pilot programme to share with the children.