Schools Start Growing Food: Minds and Bodies Follow

On the heels of last week's post, Fast Food Makes You Stupid, I want to celebrate a few schools who are taking the opposite approach. Last weekend's Christian Science Monitor article "The School Lunchroom Grows Green" describes several public schools, private schools, and universities around the country that are incorporating community gardens and other eco-and-local food friendly concepts into their cafeterias. Here's a short excerpt: schhol-lunch

At St. Philip’s Academy in Newark, students used to bring fast food and Lunchables for their midday meal. “Before, what came out of here as a result of three lunch periods to the dumpster was just incredible,” says Miguel Brito, the head of the Episcopal academy, which prepares low-income children for college prep schools.

To improve its students’ eating habits and teach the 350 K-8 children about growing seasons and farms, St. Philip’s radically redesigned its cafeteria program two years ago, when it moved into its new LEED-certified building, a converted chocolate factory. It arranged to buy local produce from two nearby farms and created a mandatory lunch program that would take advantage of the fresh fruits and vegetables. One of the building’s most eye-catching environmental features is the gym’s green roof – 4,500 square feet of teaching gardens, complete with rain barrels to recycle water.

The program costs $750 a school year, which administrators says works out to less than $4 per meal, or roughly the cost of a Happy Meal. “We thought we would hear that ‘We hate this food, we want to go back to McDonald’s,’ ” says Jennifer Kotkin, ecospaces coordinator and seventh-grade science teacher. Instead, administrators say, the kids really enjoy eating what they have grown and are piling hummus and tzatziki on their plates along with PB&J.

The cafeteria also switched from speed lines with trays to family-style dining. “If you compare a normal school cafeteria to a family-style system, the percentage of waste significantly drops,” says Ralph Walker, the architect who designed the school’s new building. “Every individual student can control [his or her] own portions. You can make closer to the exact amount of food [needed], wash less, and do less.”

The rest of the article is just as good, and just as encouraging (the pictures are great, too). Please take a look and let me know what you think - and if you know of any schools trying similar things. Thanks to Tracy from the Birchwood Cafe for the link to this article!


Lee, this is a great article with a very positive and surprising outcome. The kids at St. Philip Academy might represent a microcosm of kids everywhere, that would be delighted and proud to take an active role in the production of the actual food that they eat. Perhaps the wonder of watching seeds grow in the soil with nurturing, care, weeding and water to full-grown, edible produce is the miraculous chain of events that, when witnessed first-hand is the 'aha!' experience kids need to re-connect them with this wholesome, Earthy way of thinking. We grow a lot of our own food and I can attest that there's nothing quite as wonderful, satisfying or tasty as munching on a home-grown carrot right out of the field, enjoying the full-bodied flavor of a sun-ripened tomato. I appreciate you sharing this wonderful story, it gives me a lot of hope that this is one project that has huge potential to spread across this great land. Very encouraging, a great hope for our future generations.
Thanks Michael, I appreciate you checking out the blog and commenting, and I'm really glad you like the post. I'm a big fan of celebrating the wins, and teaching our kids to understand where their food comes from, how to grow it, and how valuable it is strikes me as one of the biggest wins out there. Thanks again, have a great day, Lee
Related article: Appleton, WI's alternative high school switched to catering by Natural Ovens and the kids' (many with behavioral problems that got them removed from regular high schools) behavior changed for the better. Also, my mom's boss was shocked recently when her grandson - who is fed a regular diet of various nuggets and Wonder Bread - asked for green beans after having them at school. Doesn't that make you smile?
Thanks Alex, those are great stories! Yes, I'm smiling. Totally.

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