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School gardens GROW in Saint Paul Public Schools

Contributed by: Jill Westlund, Saint Paul Public Schools
Students at Murray Middle School in Saint Paul sharing
their harvest in the cafeteria
Saint Paul Public Schools (SPPS) is thrilled to announce that they were awarded a $100,000 USDA Farm to School implementation grant for the “Grow Our Own” project for school gardens! “Grow Our Own”, or GROW, is a project that connects school gardens to classrooms, cafeteria and community. SPPS and Youth Farm, an organization that uses food as a tool for youth development opportunities via urban agriculture and cooking classes, have partnered to increase food & ag educational opportunities.

A recent grant from the Cargill Foundation allows this team to work with a third partner, Renewing the Countryside (RTC), to incorporate early childhood exposure to school gardens and farm to table activities.

The funding from USDA will support this project in two critical ways. First, the project will provide funds to individual schools to test and evaluate the School Garden Handbook. These schools will be able to build a new garden, revive an unused garden or extend the use of current gardens to include classroom lessons and cafeteria connections.

The second use of this funding is for the creation of a resource hub that will pair school garden teams with community partners and other resources in the surrounding area. What kind of resources? Training, education, maintenance help, technical support, supplies, and person power are all part of the plan. These local partnerships will provide an extension of support beyond the district staff and will serve as a way to create new avenues for community connections to participating schools.

“It’s an exciting opportunity to build support for local food education, using amazing outdoor learning spaces, for the kids of Saint Paul.”, said Stacy Koppen, MS, RD, LD, Director of Nutrition Services for SPPS. “We are so grateful for this award.”

*Note: Saint Paul Public Schools (SPPS) is one of three USDA Farm to School grantees that were awarded funds in 2019. Learn more about the other two projects on the USDA Farm to School grant awards website.

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