School Garden Project
When you think about Bloomington, “deserts” may be the last thing that comes to mind. But in reality, Monroe County does have deserts -- food deserts. Food deserts are areas that prevent the easy food choice from being a healthy food choice. Often times in food deserts, unhealthy options are more easily available and less expensive than traveling to the nearest grocery store or farm market stand.
One way we can transform food deserts into oases is to work with local schools. And we are excited to partner with IU Health Bloomington Hospital Community Health to fund School Gardens at several Title I and underserved schools within the Monroe County Community School Corporation and Richland Bean Blossom School Corporation. School Gardens purposefully connect the garden to the curriculum by tying into grade-appropriate Indiana Department of Education standards for Health, Physical Education, Science, English, Math, and Art. Studies suggest that school gardens enhance student achievement.
Recently Hoosier Hills Career Center and Bloomington High School North’s VOICE Girls’ Group joined the School Garden program by creating a unique garden partnership. VOICE focuses on making positive, healthy choices and creating opportunities for young women to interact with female mentors through activities during and after school. This particular school garden project also includes children enrolled at the Hoosier Hills Career Center Daycare.
The program launched in Spring 2013 with the introduction of school gardens at Clear Creek Elementary, Edgewood Intermediate, and Arlington Heights. Through working outside and watching their School Gardens flourish, students gained a deeper understanding of healthy eating habits. Clear Creek Elementary students improved their nutrition knowledge scores by 21% after being actively involved in the School Garden program. And students at Arlington Heights are more confident in their ability to select a meal based on MyPlate Guidelines, an increase of 14.3% compared to pre-program measures.
After hands-on experience in the School Gardens, 85.7% students at Edgewood Intermediate agree that they their favorite fruit or vegetable can be eaten as a snack, compared to 78.5% pre-School Gardens program. Additionally, the Arlington Heights community has embraced their school garden and will be starting a gardening club to focus on year-round nurturing and learning in the outdoor space. Stinesville Elementary also recently joined the School Gardens program!
The produce grown in these gardens will be available to all of the student volunteers and their families. Any leftover produce is donated to local food pantries, like Mother Hubbard’s Cupboard (a United Way member agency), to distribute to area residents. During the past year, local food pantries have seen an approximate 16% increase in demand for food.
The School Garden Project combines United Way’s 3 E’s – Earnings, Education, and Essentials – in a unique way by teaching our youth hands-on gardening skills and how to make healthier food choices.
Would you like to help ensure our community members have their basic needs met?
Please consider donating to the United Way Essentials Priority Fund. This fund helps individuals and families meet basic needs with access to sufficient food, a stable place to live, low-cost health care, and the information and skills to manage crises.