In 2011-12, 31 percent of schools with farm-to-school food programs had school gardens, essentially bringing the entire farm to their schools, nutrition directors told the U.S. Department of Agriculture.
The USDA is currently completing a new farm-to-school census to see if those numbers have grown, and I wouldn’t be surprised if they have. As schools face mandates to serve more fresh fruits and vegetables on their lunch trays, child nutrition advocates say involving students in their meals in a hands-on way makes those foods more appealing. And teachers say growing food provides an engaging platform for all sorts of other subjects, including writing, science, and even math assignments.
I have my own experience with this. My 5th grade class had individual plots outside my tiny Kansas middle school where we planted rows of radishes and loose-leaf lettuce. Many of my vegetable-averse peers had their first voluntary salad-eating experiences after our first harvests.
These days, school gardens are much more sophisticated—complete with crops like kale and chard and even animals like chickens. There are entire programs, like FoodCorps, that send trained volunteers to schools to teach children about food production and to coordinate school gardens.
If you have a school garden, Education Week wants to see what you’re growing. On Twitter or Instagram, please share photos with the hashtag #LearningInBloom. Include a brief description of the photo that mentions the lessons being learned and your location (school, district, or city), and we might feature your photo in our virtual gallery.
A version of this news article first appeared in the Rules for Engagement blog.