GroPride: Supporting LGBTQ+ youth through gardening

A rainbow Pride flag on a flagpole waves in front of a blue sky. The words "Introducing: GroPride" are placed on top of the flag.

For decades, we’ve seen firsthand how gardens can be inspirational, safe spaces where youth can build community, gain a sense of place and learn skills that will last them a lifetime. We know that gardens are powerful spaces that can bring people together and provide opportunities for education, comfort and growth. That’s why, together with our partner The Scotts Miracle-Gro Foundation, we've designed a program that will help connect more LGBTQ+ youth and allies to the empowering opportunities provided by hands-on garden programming. Our GroPride Garden Grants help provide monetary funding and peer learning opportunities to support the development of new gardens and the expansion of existing gardens that engage LGBTQ+ youth and allies. 

The social and emotional benefits of gardening are particularly relevant to LGBTQ+ youth, who experience higher rates of trauma, stigma, and discrimination than their straight, cis-gender peers. Programs that provide opportunities for LGBTQ+ youth to spend more time outdoors, interacting with nature, are well poised to effectively strengthen community, foster empowerment, support positive identity, and address some of the challenges frequently experienced by the LGBTQ+ youth community.

Throughout the winter, we were on the look-out for organizations that are making a difference in the lives of LGBTQ+ youth. After ongoing discussions, three incredible programs—all of whom expressed a dedication to the creation and expansion of garden-based learning opportunities—rose to the top and were selected as our inaugural GroPride Garden Grant winners. These organizations include:

Dykes with Drills in partnership with the Historic Rodgers Ranch Heritage Center in Lafayette, CA
“The goal of our program will be to teach LGBTQ youth how to safely use power tools to build garden beds and their own garden tool box and how to manage a garden to grow healthy food." – Julie Peri, Founder/Director, Dykes with Drills*

Pride for Youth of the Long Island Crisis Center in Bellmore, NY
"The goals of the gardening program are to promote health and well-being, promote a sense of community, reduce stress and symptoms of anxiety and depression, encourage creativity, encourage mindfulness and mental clarity, teach responsibility, and provide a sense of purpose. Youth will be in charge of the designs in the garden, allowing them space to creatively express their ideas." – Aiden Kaplan, LGBTQ Services Manager, Long Island Crisis Center

The Walla Walla Valley Farm to School Program of the Sustainable Living Center in partnership with Triple Point Walla Walla in Walla Walla, WA
"We seek to gather stakeholder, community, and youth input to establish a sustainable-long term version and school garden support framework for LGBTQIA+ youth. The intention and plan are to engage and empower LGBTQIA+ youth in the planning and building of an accessible, safe garden space." – Rey Cooley, Walla Walla Valley Farm to School Program Manager

And what better time than Pride Month to lift up the incredible work and vision of our GroPride Garden Grantees. Over the next few weeks, we’ll be highlighting each of these organizations on social media. We hope you’re just as excited and inspired by their garden projects as we are. 

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The GroPride Garden Grant builds on ScottsMiracle-Gro’s broader GroMoreGood commitment to connect 10 million kids to the benefits of gardening and outdoor play by 2023. Together, KidsGardening and The Scotts Miracle-Gro Foundation award nearly 300 garden grants each year through the GroMoreGood Grassroots Grants Program, and our GroPride Grant is an extension of that program. 

Learn more about our GroMoreGood Grassroots Grants.

*From the Dykes with Drills website: "We call ourselves Dykes With Drills. By using the word “dyke”, we reclaim it from its history of oppression and exclusion. By using drills and other tools, we build communities of diversity and inclusion. Our community includes people of all sexualities and genders, including those who are non-conforming, transgender, and allies."

Kids Love School Gardens

Painting of a garden, with a river in the center

This past April we celebrated Kids Garden Month by asking kids to share what they love about their garden. We had 365 entries in our annual contest and we’re excited to highlight our six school winners, each of whom will receive $500 to fund school garden improvements thanks to the generous sponsorship of Sprouts Healthy Communities Foundation and the School Garden Support Organization (SGSO) Network. Each of these programs demonstrate the many incredible ways gardens can be used as an educational tool and the varied impact they can have on youth of all ages. (Meet all of our Kids Garden Month winners.)

Physical Activity and Sensory Engagement

When students at Cyril K Brennan Middle School were asked what they loved about working in the vegetable garden many of them shared that they most enjoyed assorted physical tasks such as planting seeds, picking vegetables, and pulling weeds; as well as feeling the sun on their face and playing with the water in the hose. School gardens can be a fantastic outlet for physical activity and can help students develop both fine and gross motor skills.

Connecting with Nature

Students at Roopville Elementary recorded a series of videos for their Kids Garden month entry. While students share different reasons for loving their school garden, we were particularly drawn to a video snippet in which a student expressed excitement about being able to connect to nature in a safe and welcoming way. For many young learners, especially those in urban environments, school gardens may serve as an introductory experience to the natural world, allowing them to connect with plants, soil, and insects in new and exciting ways.

Culinary Arts and Nutrition Education.

Tracey Magnet school’s entry captures over 100 responses from students about why they love gardening. And it’s no wonder students like their garden so much, when they’re the ones who get to reap the benefits of the harvest—students frequently participate in cooking classes that feature fresh produce straight from the garden. Cooking activities can be a great way to integrate nutrition education and life skills into the school day; they can also serve as an ongoing connection to the garden during the off season.

A collage of garden pictures with the words We Love Our Garden spelled out

Literacy

The garden at West Bloomfield High School is filled with plants from American authors’ homes, bringing literacy connections to life for students. The garden includes mint from Ernest Hemingway’s home in Horton Bay MI, hydrangeas from Kurt Vonnegut’s home in Barnstable, MA, roses from Emily Dickenson’s home in Amherst, MA. and more! Given their garden’s theme and inspired by a recent PBS documentary about Hemingway, members of the high school’s Literacy Club decided to answer the Kids Garden month prompt in the form of six word stories. Themed gardens can be a wonderful way to generate excitement and engagement, while simultaneously connecting to classroom topics or fun learning projects. 

English Language Arts and Community Engagement

Second graders at St. Peter's School demonstrated how gardens can be used as powerful tools for addressing English Language Arts proficiencies—students spent a week working on short handwritten essays about what they love about gardening. While gardens can serve as a jumping off point for reflective writing, they can also inspire writing prompts focused on observation and persuasive writing.

Teacher Helen McKean also shared how extra harvest from the St. Peter’s School garden is frequently donated to a nearby community center that integrates the fresh produce into their free meal distribution offerings, showing how gardens can help facilitate meaningful connections between schools and wider communities.

 

Self-Expression & Stewardship

The 7th graders of Room 706 at Township of Ocean Intermediate School were given the choice of how they wanted to create their Kids Garden Month entries. Some students painted on canvas (one painting is pictured above, in the headline image), some wrote poems and created videos, one student even wrote a song and reordered herself singing it. The diverse ways in which kids created their projects helps to demonstrate how school gardens can be used as safe spaces and important vehicles for self-expression and self-discovery. 

Gardens can also help situate students within their community and place and allow them to engage in empowering stewardship opportunities. With their $500 award, students of Township of Ocean Intermediate School hope to install a rain garden that will help catch stormwater runoff, filter water, and contribute to erosion control. Through the creation of the garden that will help protect nearby watersheds, students will be able to learn about sustainability practices and civic stewardship.

Continue to celebrate school gardens

To learn about other school garden programs and the creative ways they’re engaging students we encourage you to check out the Growing School Gardens coast-to-coast virtual school garden tour!

Building a “Fairy Tail” Garden

Children and adults sitting on a custom garden bench with the Gabby's Dollhouse logo and characters

Last Thursday, KidsGardening joined folks from the Caring Center in Philadelphia, PA to celebrate the installation of a “Kitty Fairy-Tail Garden” in partnership with DreamWorks Animation and their show Gabby’s Dollhouse. The gathering, which coincided with Earth Day, included planting activities, seed ball making, and most importantly the unveiling of the new garden space!

Kids in colorful hats, coats, face coverings, and garden gloves are planting in a raised bed.The Caring Center, an early childhood education childcare center, after-school, and summer program was excited to augment their outdoor play area by expanding their garden space. Previously, the Center had three raised beds that were being used by children to grow food that would make its way into snacks, meals, and educational activities like cooking classes and taste tests. The beds were over a decade old and on the smaller side. In an effort to provide more space for children who attend programming at the Center to learn and grow, educators proposed refurbishing some of the existing beds and expanding the garden footprint. 

With the help of Terren Landscapes, eight new raised beds were installed along the perimeter of the Caring Center’s outdoor playspace, one old raised bed was rebuilt, and three apple trees were planted. Additionally, the Center teamed up with Tiny WPA to install a special Gabby’s Dollhouse planting bench (pictured above) that can be used to store tools, grow flowers, and provide a place for children to sit and relax with friends.

KidsGardening Executive Direction Em Shipman, who attended the Earth Day event, says "it was an honor to be able to support the Caring Center to see their teaching garden dreams become reality. Our partnership with DreamWorks Animation is allowing the phenomenal educators at this preschool and early care center to engage 160 kids in garden-based education in just this first year. Kids are learning where their food comes from, connecting with plants and nature and it's cycles, and getting therapeutic time outdoors."

2021 Gardening Grants

kids gardening grants

A few weeks ago KidsGardening kicked off our 2021 grant season! Given the fact that we provide four different gardening grants for schools or youth programs, each with varied timelines and their own defining features, I wanted to provide a quick overview of each of these opportunities. The information below is only intended as a snapshot of each grant, so if something catches your eye I definitely encourage you to thoroughly read through all the information on our grant home pages and in our grant applications for full details about eligibility and requirements.

2021 Budding Botanist Grant

Budding BotanistKey Dates

  • Applications Due: 10/30/20
  • Winner Announcement: 12/11/20

Grant Snapshot: The first thing to know about Budding Botanist is that it’s only open to K-12 schools in the US that serve high-needs populations. Secondly, it specifically focuses on supporting new and existing garden programs that promote environmental sustainability, biodiversity, and knowledge about local ecosystems. If both of these criteria apply to your program, then you might be a great fit for the Budding Botanist grant. This year, fifteen schools will each receive $1000 in unrestricted funds as well as $200 worth of assorted materials that support garden-based learning. Learn more about Budding Botanist.

Sponsored by: Klorane Botanical Foundation

2020 Carton 2 Garden Contest

Carton 2 GardenKey Dates

  • Applications Due: 12/1/20
  • Winner Announcement: 1/8/20

Grant Snapshot: Carton 2 Garden is a fun project-based contest that can be completed whether you’re engaged in remote, hybrid, or in-person learning. K-12 schools in the US are challenged to collect 100 empty milk or juice cartons and then create a garden project or structure using them, so if you’re looking for a project to tackle with your students this is the opportunity fo you. This year, 15 programs will receive award packages ranging from $1,000 to $5,000, with special recognition given to projects that demonstrate exemplary work in a variety of speciality areas including health and nutrition, STEM, environmental stewardship, and art. Learn more about Carton 2 Garden.

Sponsored by: Evergreen Packaging

2021 Youth Garden Grant

Key Dates

  • Applications Due: 12/18/20
  • Winner Announcement: 1/29/21

Grant Snapshot: The Youth Garden Grant award package is full of assorted high-quality gardening materials, so if you’re looking to increase your supply inventory this grant might be particularly attractive. That being said, KidsGardening will also provide $250 to each of this year’s 30 winners. The Youth Garden Grant serves a wider audience than the aforementioned Budding Botanist Grant—it is open to any school, nonprofit, or youth program in the US or US territories. Learn more about the Youth Garden Grant.

Sponsored by: Leaders in the horticulture industry, and generous donors like you

2021 Gro More Good Grassroots Grant 

Gro More Good logoKey Dates

Grant Snapshot: Like the Youth Garden Grant, the Gro More Good Grassroots Grant is available to a wide variety of programs—specifically, any nonprofit or tax exempt organization may apply. Garden programs that demonstrate concrete connections to their community, serve underrepresented populations, and are interested in obtaining strictly cash awards are a great fit for this grant. In 2021, 175 grants worth a collective total of $100,000 will be distributed, making Gro More Good our most expansive and impactful grant. Learn more about Gro More Good.

Sponsored by: Scott’s Miracle-Gro Foundation

Back to School Garden-Based Learning Resources

In many parts of the country the school year is starting back up with some significant differences from past years. Many districts are engaging students in fully remote learning, some are embracing hybrid models that mix in-person instruction with distance teaching, and others have fully opened. No matter what situation you’re in and whether you’re a teaching or an at home caregiver, there are plenty of resources available to help you tackle garden-based learning in safe and meaningful ways this fall:

  • Lessons to Grow By is a FREE four-month KidsGardening program of weekly garden-themed lessons and activities for parents teaching at home, or for educators instructing via distance learning. These fun, engaging adventures are grouped around a monthly theme, featuring three hands-on activities for kids each week with supplemental suggested reading, videos, and more. Lessons to Grow By is aimed at learners in grades 3-5, but the activities can easily be adapted for younger or older audiences. Lessons to Grow By launches August 31 and is only available by subscription (see link above to sign up and gain access to these special learn-from-home lessons)
  • Edible Education for the Home Classroom is a collection of lessons from the Edible Schoolyard that can easily be done at home. Many of their activities extend beyond the garden to the dinner plate, which means you’ll find recipes and guided reflections on mindful eating alongside germination experiments. Lessons are categorized based on central themes including imagine, create, support, learn, connect, and reflection.
  • SGSO Webinars and Virtual Gatherings will allow you to hear from experts in the field or engage in peer to peer networking through an entirely online series hosted by the School Garden Support Organization Network. The fall series kicked off yesterday with a Virtual Gathering on garden care and management during Covid-19 (you should be able to find a recording of this event, along with past webinars and virtual gatherings in the extensive SGSO Archive). Future topics include distance teaching/learning, Covid-friendly outdoor classroom infrastructure, using your school garden to support food relief, and more.
  • A Guidance Template for Gardening during Covid-19 created by the University of Minnesota Extension provides best practices for minimizing risk while working in a garden space. Originally created for community gardens, this template has sections that are most definitely applicable for schools interested in thinking critically about sanitation and safe social distancing protocols.
  • Green Schoolyards of America’s Covid-19 Outdoor Learning Page serves as a compilation of resources to help teachers and administrators creatively and realistically navigate repurposing outdoor spaces as classrooms. Many of the resources listed here are not specially focused on school gardens, because the truth is you don’t need a growing space to have an outdoor classroom or to teach outside. That being said, many of the tips and strategies recommended by Green Schoolyards of America and their working groups are relevant to folks invested in school garden programming and infrastructure.

Favorite Summertime Garden Snacks

garden snacks

Here in Vermont it’s that time of summer when gardens are overflowing with produce. It seems that every other day I have two dozen hot peppers to pick and each week I’m making massive batches of pesto (more on that in a minute). For me, having lots of veggies to harvest is simultaneously rewarding and overwhelming. And I think many gardener’s would agree that it’s easy to feel swamped by the amount of food coming out of the garden at the height of the growing season, especially if you don’t have a set plan for it. 

Over the years, through trial and error, I’ve come to realize which veggies I know I have a definite use for and which ones I should cut back on—for example, cabbage is incredibly fun to grow in my opinion, but there’s only so much I can eat. To formulate an understanding of which varieties I should grow and how much, I had to really examine the foods I like to snack on and the meals I like to prepare. During this self-reflective process there were a few recipes that immediately rose to the top and I wanted to share a little bit about them with you today. Below are three of my absolute favorite summertime garden snacks that allow me to use a significant amount of produce from a garden in one go, plus they’re delicious and easy to make whether you’re a kid or an adult!

Pan fried (blistered) shishitos: Shishitos are hands down my absolute favorite type of pepper. They are a finger-size, very mild Japanese variety (just a hit of spice) that taste best when sauteed whole in a little bit of olive oil with some salt sprinkled on top (just toss them in a pan at medium-high heat with the aforementioned ingredients until they’re slightly charred). They’re tasty enough to be a stand-alone snack, but I commonly use them as a side during dinner. And if I’m not craving whole shishitos, I’ll simply chop them up and add them to any dish that involves peppers. I typically grow one or two shishito plants each season and end up eating 8-12 peppers nearly every other day.

Pesto: I tend to have at least five basil plants in my garden, and making pesto is the only way I can keep up with the amount of basil I harvest throughout the growing season. While making pesto almost weekly can sometimes feel like a chore, I know that I can easily freeze whatever I make and that by the end of the summer I’ll have enough pesto to last me until the next growing season. One of the things I love about pesto is all the different varieties you can make! Try a spinach version or this parsley one. Kale and garlic scapes are also wonderful additions to spice up a traditional basil-based recipe and you can even add in some shishitos to create a slightly spicy kick.

Quick Pickles: I’m not super into raw cucumber but I love pickles and I like the idea of making my own but don’t have the patience to go through the whole canning process (nor do I have the proper equipment) The solution: quick pickles! Unlike fresh preserved pickles which can be stored up to a year, quick pickles only last a few weeks in your refrigerator. You can easily make your own with a basic brining solution or you can simply toss sliced cucumbers in leftover brine once you’re done with a store bought jar (though you should only do this once or twice before getting a new jar). Having a single plant can sometimes produce too much for even my quick pickling habit, especially if I let the cucumbers reach their full size, so I do my best to harvest cukes when they’re still small (approx. 3-4 inches).

Three pieces of school garden advice

Christine school garden tips

Many of you may know from my previous blog posts that in addition to my work with KidsGardening, I’ve been managing gardens and teaching cooking classes for the Burlington School District for the past three and a half years. Since late 2016 a partnership has existed between KidsGardening and the Burlington School Food Project (BSFP), the district’s food service department and the guiding force behind farm to school activities across the city, that has enabled my split role. But as of July 1st, I am stepping away from my work with BSFP and am joining the KidsGardening staff full time as the Programming Director!

As I make this exciting transition, I’ve found myself reflecting on the lessons learned from my time spearheading district-wide gardening and cooking initiatives. Here are some of key factors that I believe have played a role in the success of BSFP’s farm to school programming.

Muli-tiered Support: The expansion of cooking cart programming to the majority of schools in the district can be attributed to the widespread excitement and support for food preparation and tasting activities. At the various elementary schools where I’ve taught, 100% of teachers opted into monthly cooking classes, food service staff welcomed me into their kitchens, and principals provided time at staff meetings for trainings related to food-based education. In many cases we also had parents volunteering to serve on garden committees and assist with planning and implementation. And from the school’s perspective, BSFP was able to meet the needs and interests of teachers by providing an employee dedicated to supporting them and facilitating learning opportunities. Without this multi-tiered support system, I’m not sure how far our programming would have gotten. 

Creative Collaboration: My position with the distinct would not have existed without a partnership with KidsGardening, so perhaps it is no surprise that collaboration in general has proven key to the development of food-based programming. Many of our school garden programs have benefited greatly from community connections—grants received from the co-op around the corner, tool sheds designed and built by students at a nearby college, garden maintenance provided by a local restaurant owner. And looking inward, some of our schools were able to create mobile cooking carts by working under my guidance and with material and financial support from the Food Service Department and the Curriculum Department. In fact, these two district entities, which typically never interact in school systems across the country, collaborated to jointly fund the Garden Education Coordinator position and support farm to school focused professional development opportunities for teachers.

Securing Funding: The decision to integrate a part time position focused on supporting food-based activities into the district’s budget created an enabling environment for the expansion of farm to school programming. But even with such a financial commitment, schools have remained partially responsible for purchasing ingredients for cooking classes and gardening materials. Each school has their own tried and true fundraising mechanisms from seedling sales to generous PTOs, but BSFP has recognized this financial gap and made it a priority to increasingly provide physical materials (mulch, compost, seed packets, vegetable starts, etc.) and monetary support (ex: gift certificates to grocery stores, discounts at local nurseries) directly to schools.

For many, garnering support, discovering and maintaining collaborative partnership, and securing funding can be some of the biggest challenges when it comes to establishing and expanding food-based programming at schools. I hope that these snapshots of the Burlington School Food Project’s success in these areas can be useful to you and your program. 

School Garden Plans, Adjusted

school garden plans

As the weather warms up here in Vermont, I’m grateful for the opportunity to get out into the Burlington School District gardens. This year, our school garden plans have changed. For the past few weeks I’ve been diligently working away at a long to-do list—installing drip irrigation, building trellises, hardening off starts from our greenhouse, etc.—in preparation for planting. While I think we could benefit from a bit of rain to moisten our dry soils, the nighttime temperatures are now high enough for our tomatoes, peppers, and other more sensitive plants to finally make their way outside.

I’m more excited for our big planting day than ever before. In response to the COVID-19 crisis, the Burlington School Food Project gardening team made the decision to amp up our production so that we can donate as much produce as possible to families in need during these unprecedented times. We didn’t expand our garden footprints, but we did practically double our production capacity by remaking in-ground beds and pathways narrower—instead of 12 rows in our Left Field garden, we now have 21!

With more plants in our garden, we’ll really have to stay on top of watering, weeding, pruning, and harvesting. While we’re up to the task, having some dedicated volunteers will help our growing season run smoothly. Many of our schools have received an outpouring of support from the community, with more folks offering to volunteer than ever before. In order to accommodate these volunteer requests we’ve established a series of protocols to encourage safe physically distant gardening:

  • A Safe Gardening Guidelines document, created by a local community garden organization, is being shared with all prospective volunteers and posted at all garden sites.
  • Volunteers are strongly encouraged to bring their own tools, though schools will be providing sanitizing solutions so that tools and high touch surfaces (garden shed door handles, gates, water spigots, etc.) can be cleaned thoroughly.
  • Volunteers are encouraged to wear a mask, especially if others are present, though we’re hoping to limit person to person contact by creating schedules so that volunteers are either working in the garden alone (or with their family) or with one or two other individuals so that proper physical distancing can be maintained.

How is your school garden approaching the growing season? Are you planning on working with volunteers? Do you plan on donating any of your garden produce? Have you adjusted any of your garden plans given the current circumstances? We’d love to hear your creative solutions and approaches!

Resources for Garden Educators

resources for garden educators

In last week’s blog Sarah spotlighted the incredible work that the School Garden Support Organization (SGSO) Network has done to support the continuation of youth garden activities during COVID-19. Beyond their special COVID-19 resource page, the network is hosting weekly gatherings that allow folks to share ideas and best practices on topics ranging from remote learning to organizational resiliency. I’ve really enjoyed tuning into these gatherings and hearing about the creative ways folks are responding to school closures, stay-at-home orders, and physical distancing protocols. 

Participating in these virtual gatherings has also prompted me to think about other opportunities for remote information sharing, learning, and professional development. Here some ongoing and upcoming webinars and online classes that might be of interest to other garden-based educators:

  • SGSO’s archived webinars: Fellow KidsGardening Educational Specialist Sarah Pounders and I have participated in some of the SGSO Network’s previous webinars. Beyond this extensive list of recordings that cover everything from best practices for crowdfunding to school and community farm stands, the network also lists webinars from a number of like organizations including the National Farm to School Network and the Whole Kids Foundation. SGSO’s COVID-19 related Virtual Gatherings can also be accessed via link on this page.
  • Prescott College’s Food Systems Friday: If you’re interested in how the food system is being affected by COVID-19 this is the webinar for you. Addressing topics from food security to culinary education, this weekly series brings in experts from the field to share their experiences and insights (Episode 4 on School and Community Garden features yours truly). While it’s a fun listen in and of itself, it could also be a useful resource and potential topic of discussion for high school culinary and ag classes. 
  • PennState Extension’s Victory Garden Reinvented!: Penn State Extension’s Master Gardener Program has been hosting a free webinar series that provides recommendations for vegetable growers (think succession planting and integrated pest management). Whether you’re an experienced gardener or just getting started, these weekly hour-long classes are great for deepening your planting knowledge. Your state’s Extension Program might be offering their own programming, so be sure to see what’s available locally to get the most relevant information for your growing climate.
  • Teaching in Nature’s Classroom: Our friends at Life Lab, the Wisconsin School Garden Network, and Rooted are teaming up to bring you a 15-week self-guided course on approaches to garden-based education. This seems like a great opportunity for folks interested in reflecting on their teaching practices and taking their school garden program to the next level. Definitely take a look at this one and sign-up before the class is full.

Adapting to School Closures

Adapting to school closures

Since news broke that schools in Vermont would remain closed for the duration of the academic year, many of the Burlington School District teachers I work with have been wondering what to do about our growing spaces. Do we scrap school gardens for the year or do we adapt to our new circumstances? 

The Burlington School Food Project, our district’s food service department and Farm to School program, is committed to seeing our growing season through. While we’ve all but decided to cancel our student-led Fork in the Road food truck program for the summer, we are moving forward to growing seedlings in our greenhouse and hope to ramp up production in our larger gardens this summer so that we can provide produce to students and their families during this unprecedented time. 

Some of our elementary school gardens are looking to take a similar approach while other programs are still up in the air, with teachers waiting until mid to late May to make decisions about how they will proceed. Many of our schools have the flexibility of waiting over a month to figure out their plans—we usually don’t start planting outdoors until closer to the end of the school year anyway due to Vermont’s often chilly spring weather and schools know they’ll have starts and seeds ready for them through the Burlington School Food Project. If schools end up deciding they don’t want to plant the seedlings we’ve been growing for them in our district greenhouse, then we’ll donate these plants to the community. 

adapting to school closuresIn the meantime, we’ll continue watering our plants and prepping our production growing spaces. But the Burlington School Food Project is doing more than just thinking about school gardens, like many other child nutrition programs across the country, we’re working hard to provide meals to students at feeding sites set up across the city. Over a two week period our team served over 10,000 free meals (our school district is approximately 3,500 students and not everyone elects to participate in our school meal program) and donated a considerable amount of perishable product from our school kitchens to local food banks.

The Burlington School Food Project will continue to serve meals for the remainder of the academic year, even during school breaks, before transitioning to our summer feeding program. As previously mentioned, our goal is to make garden-grown produce available to families at our meal distribution sites. Until the time that produce is ready to be harvested, we’ll be piloting a seed distribution program in partnership with Vermont Community Garden Network and the Vermont Farm to School Network.