Parents have long struggled with how best to get their kids to eat more fresh fruit and vegetables. Well, the Jersey City Public School District and the National Gardening Association may have struck upon a novel idea: get kids to grow their own food.
This fall, the school district will launch a new campaign known as A Garden in Every School, in conjunction with the National Gardening Association. Through the program, which will be funded from contributions from local businesses, school students throughout the district will plant, tend to, and grow their own school-based vegetable gardens.
The hope is that the students will gain a better understanding of the food they eat.
“Right now, I think we have enough money to get going in two schools,” said Mike Metallo, president and CEO of the National Gardening Association. “We expect to start planting in the early fall.”
“Growing up in a city, we can’t even say that we’ve ‘lost the connection to the land,’ many of our children never had it.” – Carol Lester
“I hope that the students will learn to get excited about nature, even where it can be found in very urban Jersey City,” said Lester. “I hope this project will help connect them to the earth and to healthy food, and healthy living.”
Balancing the diet
The project, she added, will hopefully be an antidote to the soda, processed food, and junk food that many kids consume regularly.
“Growing up in a city, we can’t even say that we’ve ‘lost the connection to the land,’ many of our children never had it,” Lester added.
The money donated from local businesses will go to underwrite the cost of soil testing at various school sites, the purchase of seeds and planting tools, and teaching materials for the program. The funding may also be used to modify school sites that are in need of slight renovations to accommodate a garden.
Lester said all of the school-based gardens will be lined with plastic sheeting to further protect student-grown vegetables from soil that may be contaminated, and fresh soil will be put down in which the students’ will plant their gardens.
“To plant a seed and see the little sprout come up, and then, all of a sudden after tending it, there’s a tomato there, or there’s a cucumber there – that’s really exciting,” said Lester. “And children get really excited when they experience that cycle first-hand.”
A Garden in Every School will, she said, help “Jersey City live up to its green potential” as a city that is situated between two rivers, has natural wind tunnels, and has “complete southern and eastern views of the sun.”
Since being elected to the board in 2010 Lester’s committee has helped launch a district wide energy audit, which included a review of existing solar panels and the possibility of adding more on other district property. The school board has also established a green initiatives policy for the district.
Speaking of the Garden in Every School project, Superintendent Dr. Marcia Lyles said “school gardens offer project based hands on education that integrates learning across the curriculum.”
E-mail E. Assata Wright at firstname.lastname@example.org.