Studies show that kids who garden perform better in science, eat healthier and develop a strong sense of social and emotional well-being. But the harvests of school gardens often can’t be served in the cafeteria because of health codes. A Farm-to-School initiative in Arizona aims to change that by allowing harvests from school gardens and locally grown foods to be used in campus meal programs.
Killip Elementary School in Flagstaff last year became one of the first schools in northern Arizona to certify a student garden with the state Department of Health Services. Through a joint effort with Coconino Cooperative Extension, FoodCorps and a first year seminar class at Northern Arizona University, produce grown and harvested from the garden can now be used in the school’s cafeteria. The certification requires a site visit from the Department of Health Services and a Food Safety Plan, which verifies that proper health and hygiene practices are in place.
Killip’s garden sprouted from an after-school club and has increased to almost twice the size of its gymnasium. There are three sections to the large plot where students learn about plants from their roots up, to innovative experiments aimed at increasing yields of kale, corn and carrots. There is a “pollinator garden” and a composting barrel where teachers have no shortage of opportunities for lessons.
Coordinators of the Killip garden hope annual harvests might reach up to 400 pounds of produce—making the cafeteria salad bar a prime lunchtime attraction.