By Sabrina Blair
Western Growers Foundation has now proudly funded more than 1,000 school gardens throughout Arizona and California. We estimate that approximately 558,800 students have been exposed to fresh fruits and vegetables as a result of these school gardens and that number continues to grow each year as new students are introduced to the garden.
WGF’s mission is not only to create, but to sustain fruit and vegetable gardens in every willing Arizona and California school. In our steps toward sustainability, we allow schools to reapply for our grants because we understand the ongoing cost of maintenance to keep these gardens growing and flourishing. Additionally, we regularly survey our schools to check on the status of the garden, find out how they are using grant funds, and what they are growing and teaching in the garden. We also want to hear of their successes and challenges.
In conjunction with these practices, we conduct a survey of preschools and child care centers throughout California one year after they receive a grant from WGF. The schools are asked to provide feedback on their experiences in the garden including best practices. Of the 53 respondent schools so far, all of them reported using the garden to discuss nutrition and the benefits of eating fresh fruits and vegetables. They also reported using the garden to supplement school-provided meals or snacks, and to conduct cooking and taste testing activities.
A teacher from Pine Tree Preschool in Los Angeles reported that a kale salad they made at school was a big hit with students. One student went home and told his mom that he wanted to go to the grocery store and purchase some kale to make a salad like the one made during cooking class. The salad was served with dinner that night and the whole family enjoyed it.
The survey results also proved that the most popular commodities in these school gardens are tomatoes and strawberries. More than 65 percent of schools grew tomatoes and 51 percent of them grew strawberries. Tomatoes and strawberries were also the most liked by students followed by lettuce, carrots and cucumber.
To learn more about their best practices as well as tips on volunteer recruiting and garden maintenance, visit www.csgn.org/best-practices-pre-k.
We also recently checked in with a few K-12 grant recipient schools in California and filmed our visits. Hear from these students and teachers about their experiences and the importance of school gardens by viewing our new video available at www.csgn.org/california.