Farm to school movement growing in Delaware
The farm to school movement in the First State is growing.
Delaware resident Thianda Manzara was inspired by a 2003 visit to the Edible Schoolyard in California, and worked to create a school vegetable gardening program in Delaware.
And since 2008, her program – Healthy Food for Healthy Kids – has sprouted in 26 First State schools, integrating community gardens into the science curriculum.
On Tuesday morning, she was working with fifth graders at New Castle Elementary.
New Castle Elementary School Principal Nneka Jones helped bring it to her school and Carrie Downie Elementary.
"We have a low-income population, and they’re not exposed to a variety of different types of vegetables," Jones said. "They generally get the same type of vegetable over and over again. So when they’re picking radishes, it’s new to them so it intrigues them."
Jones says 62% of students at New Castle Elementary come from low income homes.
After three years, she calls the program a success - except for the occasional groundhog.
Studies show hands-on experience with community gardens lead kids to eat more vegetables. And New Castle Elementary teacher Victoria Celli says it makes a difference in learning too.
“If you make it fun and you make it real, then they listen," Celli said. "But if it’s something they’re not interested in, they’re not going to pay attention. But this is real, this brings it to life for them. Because it’s not just coming out of the cafeteria window. This is in the actual backyard of their school. And they get to see what it looks like from start to finish, and then to be able to enjoy it and eat it is kind of like the icing on the cake.”
That’s right: the vegetables the kids harvest become part of school lunches – one piece of what Nutrition Outreach Specialist Scott Schuster says is a Colonial School District’s push to add local ingredients to its meals.
“So right now as you see, we have two bags: one is full of radishes and the other is full or arugula," Schuster said. "So at this point once a class has come out and harvested and done a preliminary cleaning on it, two students will actually go back to the cafeteria and provide it to our café managers.”
The learning stops there for now – but at William Penn High School they can also help with food prep in the culinary program there.