Kids grow vegetables, gain skills in a sustainable school garden

Alexandria, La. (AP) – Like the Rapids Academy for Literacy Sixth grade students, they are learning the value of sustainable gardening with the help of a good nutrition project.

The Good Food Project Central Louisiana Food Bank program distributes the garden to customers and teaches community members how to grow their own food. The program also works with schools to grow their own gardens and teach students about gardening, food preparation and health.

Jessica Smith, teacher and garden sponsor, says students can apply the garden to what they have learned in other English language arts, math, science and history.

For example, principal Jennifer Scott and Smith encouraged students to look at the garden and write in their magazines, said GFP Director Francis Budrew. This is one of the ways in which LA has been implemented.

Students will learn that gardening includes the principles of STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics).

Sixth graders at Rapids Academy harvest the red potatoes they sowed in February.

“The kids are so excited to be able to plant everything and see it grow,” Smith said. “And they must eat everything we sow and grow.”

The Good Food Project also teaches students how to make healthy eating choices.

It has so far provided Reds, mustard greens and sugarcane peas seeds and crops on two GFP garden beds.

What is the most popular vegetable among students so far?

“Get some sugar,” Smith replied.

Little favorite?

“They weren’t crazy about mustard greens,” she told me.

Recently, in addition to green beans, they harvested red potatoes planted in February.

Boudreaux showed the students how to remove the potato. They are eager to see the results of their efforts. After that task is done, show them how to choose Boudreaux green beans.

“They are excited to try the potatoes and beans next week,” says Smith. “I go home and cook for them and then we have lunch – snack.”

But potatoes must be cured, says Boudreaux. That takes about six days. And you can take some home with them.

Sixth grader Natalie Buller’s family has their own vegetable garden. Inspired by her sister’s 6th grade at Pinville Junior High School, they grew their own garden

She prefers homemade vegetables because they are sweeter than those bought in the store.

“Because they add a lot of chemicals in factories,” she said of taste differences.

Her favorite are green beans and broccoli.

“We also produce a lot of flowers and a lot of weeds for butterflies and things like that,” she said.

Natalie’s family also produces their own spices, such as mustard.

“Using your own spices – you know you grew up on your own makes everything better,” she told me. “It illuminates the whole food.”

When she is out in the sun and enjoying herself all the time, she feels energized. Gardening was a big family building project for Buller.

“It is a wonderful thing to be able to reap everything,” she said.

“Sustainable gardening is something you can use for the rest of your life after you leave,” Smith said. “They are being able to apply what they have learned in school and take it out.”

“We have seen a resurgence of interest in school and community gardens since 2021,” Boudreaux said. “Teachers and representatives of other organizations have been put on the list of new plantations and have been able to expand or improve existing gardens.”

Rapides Academy and Lessie Moore Elementary School Pineville have come together as new pilot school partners this year with the addition of new gardens, Boudreaux said.

“Senla Food Bank hopes that the Good Food Project will be a reliable resource for teaching students and families how to grow their own food,” she said.

Learning sustainable gardening is a great benefit, especially at a time when there is high demand, food prices, and a shortage of supplies.

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