At least 5,000 groups jumped into the running when Readers Digest, the Food Network and the nonprofit Share Our Strength joined hands to offer five Good Food grants to schools and community groups around the United States. Local charter school ArtSpace made the final eight and could win $10,000 to start its own edible “good foods” garden.
The school serves about 350 students from both urban and rural settings, spanning five counties. About one-third of them fall below the poverty level, and 20 percent are served through ArtSpace’s “Exceptional Children's Program” (special education), school officials report. ArtSpace doesn’t receive funding for student nutrition; all students must pack their own lunches.
Although ArtSpace partners with local Manna FoodBank to help provide food to families in need, the Good Food Garden grant allows experiential learning through measuring and weighing each plants' production, testing water/soil quality and composition, and graphing the rotation of plantings throughout the garden. The grant also offers a therapy tool for the Exceptional Children's Program, and it lets ArtSpace expand its after-school cooking program — Eating Through the Rainbow! — to focus on local, seasonal crops.
An edible classroom would give students a chance to see first-hand where food comes from, and it will keep them engaged and physically active in the garden as they hoe, weed, plant, and harvest, say school leaders. A Good Food garden at ArtSpace would also serve as a hub of activity and interaction for the school's families: Opportunities for monthly community dinners, distribution of extra food through a farm stand, and giving back to the local food bank all further the goals of service and good citizenship. Students would have the opportunity to share their gained knowledge in preserving our mountain heritage (canning, sun-drying, pickling, dyeing) by taking part in local fairs.
ArtSpace has the space: a grassy area to the side of its athletic field, where there’s water access and full sun. The school needs merely a building permit and your vote: Click here.
– Margaret Williams