Creating what an organizer called “a welcoming educational space for our students and club members” was the goal Saturday morning as students, parents and others who love gardening together gathered at Lockwood Elementary School to celebrate Earth Day by doubling the size of the school’s community garden.
During the run-up to Saturday’s event, Maggie Harkins, a FoodCorps service member at the Boys and Girls Clubs of Yellowstone County, said the project was designed to add six raised beds to the six existing beds, as well as one bed for use by disabled students.
FoodCorps is a nationwide organization that connects children to real food and helps them grow up healthy. FoodCorps members, Harkins among them, dedicate a year of public service to help children grow up in healthy school food environments. About 125 service members are spread among 108 sites in 15 states.
A handful of groups, including Kohl’s Cares volunteers, students, parents, Volunteers in Service to America (VISTA) and Master Gardeners, all pledged their help with Saturday’s project, Harkins said. About 30 workers were expected to work between 9 a.m. and noon.
Their work “will expand our school garden to turn it into a welcoming educational space for our students and members,” she said.
“We’re trying to make it a space the whole school can use,” she said.
In past years, students have grown mostly vegetables and a few flowers, she said. This year they’ll add native plants to the mix.
“It’s a huge space that’s been under-utilized,” Harkins said. “This will also give us more outdoor classroom space.”
According to its website, FoodCorps has three pillars it uses to help educate children on eating healthy food and growing up healthy:
Knowledge — The typical elementary student receives 3.4 hours of nutrition education each year. FoodCorps teaches children about healthy food and where it comes from. Service members work alongside teachers to increase the quantity of nutrition education that children receive.
Engagement — School gardens are used as gateways for getting students to try new foods. They also bring parents and community members together and help them become advocates for healthier school lunches. FoodCorps builds and tends school gardens and teaches cooking lessons.
Access — Children who know the farmer who grew their broccoli are more likely to eat it. Studies show that children participating in Farm to School programs consume one more serving of fruits and vegetables per day. FoodCorps fills lunch trays with real food from the farm.
Learn more at www.foodcorps.org.