Growing our children through gardening education

Erie City School District  |  Posted on

Super-sized carrots unearthed from the Diehl Elementary School Garden

Each of Erie City School’s 15 elementary, middle, and high schools has a school garden, and excitement about growing and tasting fresh foods has spread from the gardens to classrooms and cafeterias. The district recently launched Erie Farm to School, a program with the mission of connecting students to the source of their foods, after receiving planning funds from the USDA Farm to School Grant Program during the 2018-19 school year.

Current efforts include cafeteria taste tests of locally grown foods (bell peppers and grapes have been a favorite so far), classroom lessons that teach science concepts using local foods, promotion of agricultural careers, a farm field trip, and hands-on activities in the school gardens.

“We want to both increase students’ access to healthy foods in schools and increase their interest in learning,” said program director Doreen Petri, a former science teacher. “We also see the economic benefits for local food producers and the community health benefits that come from gardening and eating more fresh foods.”

The district’s food service, Metz Culinary Management, has been a key partner in implementing Erie Farm to School. This partnership has been and will continue to be a shared vision for healthier school meals and quality nutrition education in the schools.

In the future, a district-wide Farm to School program that grows student, staff, and community wellness is a long-term vision. In addition, the promotion of local agriculture will be strengthened by key partnerships at both regional and state levels that leverage resources to address food access issues.