STORY: School gardens yield fresh produce and science lessons

School food-service managers struggle to provide fresh, nutritious produce for their students. Despite schools’ best efforts to serve them on limited budgets, students are not consuming the recommended amounts of fruits and vegetables.

To supply locally grown food for school meals, Extension teamed up with a high school vocational agriculture teacher in one Kentucky county to plant a garden on the school grounds. They also created an opportunity for students to learn science, agriculture, business and life skills while working in the garden.

Elementary students learned about plant life cycles as they raised and harvested broccoli to use on their pizzas. High school students gained valuable experience and knowledge about how to weed, harvest, process and market their produce. The local schools gained access to affordable locally grown food for their menus.

The students picked over 2,000 pounds of grape tomatoes for school meals, as well as broccoli, cantaloupes, cucumbers, peppers, cauliflower, eggplant, sweet corn, seedless watermelons, red potatoes and cabbage during 2014-2015.

With the $20,000 cost savings from using food harvested from its garden, the high school purchased a salad bar for the students. Researchers subsequently found that more students were eating vegetables from the new salad bar.