DOVER — A new Healthy Foods for HealthyKids garden has opened at South Dover Elementary School.
The program helps students in grades K-4 discover how to grow and eat their own vegetables through science-based learning over the course of their years at the school. The garden was funded by a USDA Specialty Crop Block Grant administered through DDA.
“With a strong track record, the Delaware Department of Agriculture was pleased to support HealthyFoods for Healthy Kids with a USDA Specialty Crop Block Grant to assist them in reaching more schools and students in Kent and Sussex Counties," Delaware Secretary of Agriculture Michael T. Scuse said in a prepared statement. “We know that when youth are actively engaged in hands-on gardening, not only do they gain skills in science and math, but they learn life skills like communication, organization, teamwork, and empathy.
But even more important is students increase their consumption of healthy fruits and vegetables, improving their overall health, because they take pride and ownership in what they grow, officials said.
Because of this experience, students who have participated in Healthy Foods for HealthyKids are more likely to encourage their family to try fresh foods, start a garden at home or participate in a community garden in their neighborhood, officials said.
HFHK provides teachers with highly interactive lessons that are easy to deliver and taught both in the classroom and garden. These lessons incorporate actual gardening tasks into lessons that support national and Delaware content standards. South Dover Elementary is the first school in Kent County to use HFHK’s program.
"By engaging young students in joyful, educational gardening experiences, we are sowing the seeds for a healthier future for today’s youth,” Lydia Sarson, HFHK executive director, said in a news release. “Students who participate in the HFHK school garden over several growing seasons advance their understanding of gardening science and their love of vegetables."
On March 13, staff and volunteers from South Dover and HFHK built 12 4x8 raised beds behind the school where students planted their garden.
Students planted spinach, lettuce, arugula, carrots, peas and radishes. After each harvest, Nutrition Services will prepare a salad to be served to all the students at lunch.
“I chose to work with HFHK because I want our students to engage in activities that teach them about fresh produce and the natural growth of seeds to harvest,” Lenita McIntyre, South Dover Elementary assistant principal, said in a statement. “It is also my hope that students learn the importance of garden education to motivate them to eat healthier."