School Gardens Grow Student Success
Childhood obesity is a major health concern affecting SC children. Health conditions such as type II diabetes that were once considered adult diseases are increasing among overweight children. Almost one third of SC high school students are overweight. If this trend continues today’s children will be the first generation to have a shorter life expectancy then their parents. It is important children establish healthy eating habits early. School gardens can help increase the amount of fruit and vegetables children eat, the likelihood children will try new types of produce, and preference for fruits and vegetables.
Eat Smart, Move More SC and the SC Department of Agriculture partnered to provide the 2010 Eat Smart, It’s in the Garden Mini-Grant program, which funded 9 new school garden projects, 5 existing school garden projects, and a School Garden teacher workshop. The recipients were: Holly Springs Elementary, Gray Court-Owings Elementary, Ford Elementary, Okatie Elementary, Nevitt Forest, York Technical, Summit Drive Elementary, Stone Academy, and Hendersonville Elementary. The five sustaining schools were Pontiac Elementary, Central Child Development Center, Mellichamp Elementary, Birchwood Middle School, and Pauline-Gleen Springs.
Beth Crocker with the SC Department of Agriculture said, “Every school garden is different but all the funded schools grew vegetables and had a “taste and see” event.” Okatie Elementary enhanced their existing school garden efforts by purchasing plant and gardening books for the library, improving the green house, purchasing seeds and soil, and starting an after school garden club.
The Okatie garden produces a variety of vegetable throughout the year including: green beans, tomatoes, squash, zucchini, broccoli, greens, and potatoes. The school has special events to highlight what they are growing such as broccoli day, collards and corn bread day, eat a peach day, and a taste of the garden event.
All students at Okatie Elementary have the opportunity to work in the garden, and those that help the most are members of the gardening club. The garden club has grown to 70 children and meets after school twice a week. Many parents come and learn about gardening along with their children. Helen Goodman, a science teacher, reports she has heard parents comment, “My kids have never tried vegetables before and now they are!” The garden club helps connect healthy eating from school to home by sending vegetables and plants home with children. They learn about container gardening so even children that live in apartments have the opportunity to garden. “The children are learning tools for the rest of their life,” said Goodwin.
Contact: Beth Crocker, SC Department of Agriculture
PO Box 11280, Columbia, SC 29211-1280