Providing students hands-on experience growing their own food is the aim of nonprofit Garden To Table, which was just awarded a $48,000 federal grant to maintain on-site gardens at Title I elementary schools in Boulder Valley School District.
“The vision is to get the children outside learning about nature and the environment where their food comes from,” said Lisa Atallah, Garden To Table’s interim executive director.
The nonprofit recently received grant funds through the Department of Agriculture to continue agricultural curriculum programs for the upcoming academic year.
“These lessons will connect students to nature and the source of their food by teaching them about the science behind agriculture, sustainable gardening practices, nutrition and environmental stewardship,” she said.
Since 2006, Garden To Table has worked with upward of 20 elementary schools in the region to provide age-appropriate, gardening-focused curriculum programs.
“It really gets them engaged and excited about healthy eating habits at a very early age,” said BVSD Sustainability Coordinator Ghita Carroll.
Garden To Table will provide two lesson plans per grade, which will be taught by teachers or parent volunteers, Atallah said.
“We have the students involved from start to finish,” she said. “They are helping prep the gardens, they're planting the seeds … and harvesting those items,” Carroll said.
The aim is to ensure that all students participate in the school garden program, Atallah explained.
“It really takes an all hands on deck approach to help maintain these,”
This year’s funding is earmarked for Title I elementary schools in BVSD, including Alicia Sanchez, Columbine, Emerald, Escuela Bilingüe Pioneer and University Hill. Title I schools have a high percentage of students enrolled from low-income families.
“Title I schools have the highest needs, both in terms of ability to maintain their garden space and … to enhance learning,” Atallah said.
Once harvested, produce will be distributed to students' families, area food banks and used for the school lunch program.
“The kids are eating what they're planting,” Atallah said.
BVSD has eliminated fried foods from lunch offerings, Carroll said, while increasing emphasis on providing whole food options.
“We offer fresh fruits and vegetables daily through our salad bars,” she said.“Our entire food service program is dedicated to getting real foods into kids.”