Posted: Jul 3, 2012 9:49 PM by Breanna Roy - KPAX News
Updated: Jul 4, 2012 7:08 AM
MISSOULA- A new garden trend is cropping up in Missoula County school yards. And the summer months are proving to produce more than just...produce.
It's a sunny summer afternoon and Sentinel High School students are at school, in a garden they helped build.
"Hands-on learning is just always been an easier way for kids with disabilities to learn," Sentinel High School special education teacher Sue Furey said. "When they actually do something, they learn it rather than just read it in a book."
They students are growing their education and a lot more. "Carrots, peas, lettuce," Sentinel senior P.J. said. "All the vegetables."
Sentinel's garden is just one of many school garden programs sprouting up across the country, with the goal of growing local food for school lunches. Missoula County Public Schools' program is in the "pilot" stage. Each garden is discovering what crops grow well before the schools can produce it on a scale to feed 6,000 students a day.
"Right now, we're not in a position where we can incorporate all this and actually be successful at feeding a school lunch program," MCPS Food Service Assistant Supervisor Edward Christensen said. "We could add some to the program, but we want to be able to meet that need entirely."
Although it may be some time before the gardens produce enough food to feed an entire school district, there's no doubt they're already nurturing the seeds of education.
"They're learning how the stuff grows, they're learning what it is, what to make with it," MCPS Food Service Supervisor Stacey Rossmiller said. "I was just talking about recipes with one kid: they're gonna make salsa, spaghetti sauce, so they really are learning a lot of stuff."
The students get to eat the vegetables of their labor and they're biting off more benefits than one can chew.
"If you want to look at the wear-and-tear on the environment, transportation, if you wanna look at freshness," Christensen said. "But I wanna look at being self-sustaining, providing an educational opportunity in a 21st century educational environment."
"They've learned how easy it is to grow things and how good it tastes and I think that is a huge thing for them to learn," Furey said.
Christensen said there is a "tremendous amount" of work ahead to make the garden goods a staple in school lunches. But with the help of Pea's Farm, the schools will serve locally grown kale chips this fall.
They hope carrots will be the next school menu item produced locally.