A section of the garden at the second safety house in Sada, South Africa.
When we were in South Africa I was really inspired and impressed by the gardens the two Sada safety homes were able to grow with the help of your generous donations. It also got me thinking a lot about growing our own food in the states. When I was growing up, my grandparents lived on a small farm in Washington where they grew a lot of food. And then when they grew older and moved to a smaller home in Port Angeles, WA they still had a really impressive garden. I remember going to the garden before dinner and helping my grandmother pick fresh vegetables that we ate that night.
Granted, my grandparents were products of the Depression and so they understood the value of growing their own food. But this concept has clearly lost its way. First world countries have become so disconnected from where their food comes from. But I do believe that home gardens, community gardens and school gardens are making a resurgence. I want to highlight one incredible way New Yorkers have gotten on board with sustainable, seasonal food in a very educational way.
Grow to Learn NYC is a Citywide School Gardens Initiative that was established in 2010 as a public-private partnership between the Mayor’s Fund, GrowNYC, and several government agency partners. The mission is to have a sustainable garden at every single public school in New York City. How great is that?!
Why Gardens in Schools Are So Important:
Research shows — and common observation tells us — that children (and adults) today are increasingly disconnected from the natural world. This is happening at great cost to their development and to the health and future of our environment. And due to intense budget cuts, public schools are having to cut costs at the expense of many science programs.
This concern is felt strongly in urban areas like New York City. Despite the city’s parkland and open space, many school children have few chances to connect to the natural world on a regular basis. Many New York City kids would be unable to identify exactly where their food comes from (although I don’t think this is only an urban problem). Additionally, the city’s young people are suffering from double-digit obesity and diabetes rates due to poor nutrition and lack of physical activity (and this is certainly true for a majority of the nation’s population).
And gardens are proven to help! Here are some facts from the Grow to Learn website:
- There is an increasing link between school garden participation and improved test scores. Not surprising as school gardens teach concepts like seasonality, soil and water health, invertebrate life, ecosystems, climate change and more.
- School gardens demand good, old-fashioned physical activity — in fact, hands-on gardening burns an average 300 calories per hour.
- School gardens encourage environmental stewardship by connecting young people with the earth and allowing them to observe nature’s cycles first hand. The school gardeners of today are the environmentalists of tomorrow.
- School gardens can combat unhealthy eating habits, as children are more likely to try unfamiliar produce and eat fruits and vegetables if they grow them themselves.
- School gardens offer truly equal-opportunity educational advantages – students with a variety of behavioral and cognitive disabilities respond positively to gardening programs.
Wouldn’t it be great if every city in America were also committed to teaching the youth of today about food, sustainability and hard work? Live in NYC? Here’s how you can get involved.