BE LOCAL GARDENS AND GREENHOUSE INITIATIVE
The purpose of the BE LOCAL GARDENS & GREENHOUSE INITIATIVE is to build healthy communities and a strong local economy through connections to local food. This project intends to encourage students within the Poudre School District (PSD) to make healthier food choices, leading to increased public and individual health. The present generation of school age children is disconnected from the land, their food and where it comes from. We can’t expect children to care about local, not to mention global environmental problems when they have no connection to their own. A school garden can begin the process of finding a solution to these complex problems. We are steadily developing a program structure and support network within the community for a strong school garden and local food program within Fort Collins, and the greater PSD area.
Our program seeks to develop a collective of community groups & organizations, businesses, principals, teachers, parents and volunteers that will provide support, funding, labor and technical assistance to school gardens within PSD. We want to help sustain and allow the 9 existing school gardens in PSD to improve their infrastructure, garden design, cultivation practices, production and curriculum. Additionally, we plan to raise support for the development of up to 3 additional gardens per year going forward, provide assistance with farm trips and farmer visits to classrooms, help fund the building of a greenhouse at Bennett Elementary for year-round growing, mentoring and enrichment opportunities for students district-wide. Finally, we hope to provide mobile garden beds to schools that don’t have the space or infrastructure to support a permanent garden plot on school grounds and several vertical growing systems for classrooms throughout the district.
The projected outcomes of our project encourage and enable our local youth to become productive members of society by: giving a broader understanding of the natural world, connection to food sources, environmental stewardship, understanding of eco-systems, which includes the students and the community, deeper bonds with nature, and a stronger connection with local food and local food producers. School gardens and associated curriculum provide students with the knowledge and skills that lead to living healthy and sustainable lifestyles. According to a Texas A&M study from 2007, students with school gardens increased their intake of fresh fruits and vegetables by 2.5 serving daily. The health of our planet is linked to the health of our bodies. Our project will teach our youth about their connection to the planet and equip them with the skills and knowledge they need to address a range of environmental issues affecting their future.
School gardens offer many opportunities for students to connect with core of community and provide great opportunities to teach: tolerance, how we nourish ourselves, the importance of stewardship, and appreciation for natural systems, including observation, critical and independent thought, achievement of life skills, and they encourage community and social development. The gardens will be a place where children can share their cultural heritages, feel a sense of belonging, and form connections to the local environment. In one study, when third to fifth grade students who participated in a one-year school gardening program filled out a survey of life skills, they showed a significant increase in self-understanding and the ability to work in groups compared to nonparticipating students (Robinson & Zajicek, 2005).
Many children have limited exposure to a wide range of healthy locally available foods. Even worse, most children have no idea where food comes from or how it is prepared. Colorado is the least overweight state – but even so, 21% of Coloradoans are overweight or obese. And that’s up from less than 15% as recently as 1990. Locally, 1 in 4 children (25%) in Poudre School District (PSD) are overweight or obese (CanDo, 2012.) In addition to obesity, poor food choices lead to chronic disease, including Type II diabetes even in children. School Gardens enable the youth to gain better self esteem, better nutritional habits (Best Practices in classroom management, 2004), develop leadership skills, positive relationships with elders (Journal of Extension 2002), increases their awareness and appreciation for nature and the environment and enables them to gain a sense of community service. School Gardens are a powerful tool for engaging the youth in healthy lifestyles and connect them to their food.