IN Great Valley Spring 2020 - Page 28

Garden Celebrates 10 Year Anniversary M ore than a decade ago, the Great Valley School District Food provides a collaborative, cross-generational connection for the and Nutrition Services Department became an active entire Great Valley community. member of the Farm to School movement. The Department “Our garden has a high level of community participation and viewed participation in the program as a way to incorporate more involvement,” said Melia who cited the involvement of an initial locally grown fruits and vegetables into the breakfast and lunch garden committee of senior volunteers who reside in the program. Like other districts throughout the state, Great Valley community, and has involved the partnership of local farmers and shared a concern about the increasing levels of childhood obesity the Chester County Food Bank, who provided equipment, seeds, and saw Farm to School programs as an effective way to combat and expertise. Prior to each spring, classroom teachers work with the growing epidemic. students to nurture seedlings through “Farm to School seemed like a the “Adopt a Seedling” initiative and The garden has directly wonderful initiative,” said Food and students participate to plant and Nutrition Services Supervisor Nicole harvest crops throughout the year. impacted the school lunch Produce grown throughout the spring Melia. “However, we soon found that buying fruits and vegetables from and summer is picked and preserved to menu. – Kelsey Gartner, local farmers was harder than we provide school cafeterias with fresh thought it would be.” Melia cited that produce throughout the winter. dietitian and garden small regional farmers often produced “The garden has directly impacted coordinator enough product for their contracted the school lunch menu,” said Kelsey large canning and freezing operations, Gartner who works as the dietitian and but not for local small end users. “The fresh product, when it was garden coordinator. “We have been able to increase the amount of obtainable, always cost more and we were required to do our own locally grown produce offered to our students throughout the year. pickup,” she said. “Because our department—like many food service Overall, our garden project has created opportunities for our departments—is self-sufficient, each of these challenges was a students and their families to discover fresh food, make healthier considerable prohibiting factor for us.” food choices, and become better nourished. These are common Then came the idea of a garden. goals for food service departments around the country.” “When we collectively considered our students’ lack of agricultural knowledge and the challenges of introducing local produce in our schools, we soon realized that our solution would need to be home grown,” said Melia. Years later, the Great Valley School District Garden is now celebrating it 10th anniversary. Planted just outside K.D. Markley Elementary School, the garden has grown significantly over the past decade. Using a number of lessons learned along the way, Melia says that the garden today truly addresses the challenges that often prohibit districts from truly implementing “farm to school” in their school food programs. In addition, the garden has become a place that provides a unique teaching environment for food service staff, students and families. According to Melia, the garden has become a “living laboratory of knowledge” that “ 26 GREAT VALLEY ”