BELMONT – Does your school district have a school garden? Chances are, if you live in Allegany County, it might! Four school districts were awarded garden grants from the Whole Kids Foundation, announced earlier in August. Alfred-Almond, Belfast, Cuba-Rushford, and Scio will each have $3,000 to improve upon their Farm to School programs in the upcoming year. Two other districts, Andover and Bolivar-Richburg, have also benefited from this grant in previous funding cycles.
Alfred-Almond will use these funds to construct their first school garden. This initiative is intended to benefit classrooms throughout the entire district and help supplement the cafeteria with fresh produce and herbs. Belfast will construct an outdoor garden for elementary school students. Belfast already has a long-standing hydroponics program and a geodesic greenhouse for high school levels, but now can offer similar education to younger learners. Cuba-Rushford has a traditional agriculture program and FFA club, which have been providing their cafeteria with fresh produce for several years. Cuba-Rushford will utilize the funds to support more gardening opportunities at the Middle-High School. Lastly, Scio will expand the existing garden in the school’s courtyard, which is maintained by the cafeteria and summer programs. Living Science students already maintain hydroponic growing towers, tap maple trees, and have recently started a beehive. This addition will help the students grow more produce that will be served in school meals.
“Over the last five years, I have seen a true movement grow in this area. I have contacts in nearly every school district with inspirational teachers who are integrating garden and agricultural concepts in their classrooms. These teachers are true heroes. They are working to educate our county’s students on how to be good consumers, environmental stewards, and maybe even local farmers in the future. I could not be more thrilled for them on their awards” says Farm to School Coordinator, Cassandra Bull. Support for garden-based learning comes from Cornell Cooperative Extension Allegany County, whose Agriculture Department hosts the office’s Farm to School program. The association offers many services for school educators including curriculum guidance, professional development, and networking opportunities. The Whole Kids Foundation was founded by Whole Foods Market, a multinational healthy food supermarket chain. The Whole Kids Foundation’s mission is to “support schools and inspire families to improve children’s nutrition and wellness. Given the right opportunities, kids will get excited about fresh fruits, vegetables, whole grains and other nutritious whole foods,” according to the organization’s website.