L.C. Kerr Elementary School is growing more than sharp minds. Thanks to grant funding, the educational institute has had the opportunity to maintain a garden on the school’s campus.
The grant, presented by North Carolina’s first lady Kristin Cooper, United Health Foundation and Whole Kids Foundation, is one of 22 given to schools and YMCAs across the state. Grants will enable schools to create or maintain vegetable gardens and teach students about nutrition and healthy eating.
“This grant will help us continue a program we have had in place for a few years,” Jeff Swartz, Clinton City Schools child nutrition director, said. “We hope to be able to continue to expand the garden we currently have and eventually put a butterfly garden at the school.”
Each organization received a $2,000 grant to build or expand an existing vegetable garden and provide educational resources about agriculture, caring for the environment and maintaining healthy lifestyles. The grants stem from an initiative by United Health Foundation and Whole Kids Foundation to address hunger and support nutrition education.
“We are truly grateful to be one of the grant recipients,” Dr. Stuart Blount, CCS superintendent, said. “The garden at L.C. Kerr garden has provided many teachable moments for our students. This grant will help us continue this wonderful hands on experience for our youngest learners. On behalf of our entire school system, I would like to thank the United Health Foundation and the Whole Foods Foundation as well as First Lady Cooper for embracing the concept of healthy lifestyles for our children.”
According to Swartz, the gardens at L.C. Kerr have been utilized to teach students about not only where food comes from, but allow them an opportunity to watch the growth process and learn how weather affects crop production. As part of the program, students are introduced to foods they may otherwise not have the opportunity to see or taste.
“The kids don’t actually eat the food out of the garden, but I try to find local growers that I can purchase the food from and give the students a chance to try something new,” Swartz explained.
In the spring, Swartz said he hopes to have chefs from local restaurants come in and show how the different foods are used in different dishes.
Studies show school gardening, combined with a healthy lunch program or nutrition education, encourages healthier food choices, and children are more likely to eat fruits and vegetables they have grown themselves.
“Nourishing minds and bodies is critical to helping children succeed in school,” Cooper stated in a press release. “Research shows that eating a healthy school breakfast and lunch improves student attendance, discipline and academic performance.”
Reach Kristy D. Carter at 910-592-8137, ext. 2588. Follow us on Twitter at @SampsonInd. Like us on Facebook.