Grow Pittsburgh: A Growing Benefit

Written by Maria Navarro, Junior, Oakland Catholic High School
Photographs by Dreya Green, Senior, McKeesport Area High School
Additional Research by Ananya Cleetus, Sophmore, Upper St. Clair High School

What comes to mind when you hear the words “Edible Schoolyard?” Perhaps you envision a Hansel and Gretel style playground, complete with sweet licorice swings sets and glistening hard candy slides, or a blacktop made of dark chocolate and hopscotch charts outlined in sugary cupcakes. Though these images may occur to you when first hear this peculiar phrase, the images found at the Edible Schoolyard at the Environmental Charter School (ECS) in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania could not present a starker contrast. During the One Young World 2012 Summit in Pittsburgh, youth delegates from various countries attended a breakout session at the school to learn firsthand about the advantages of the Edible Schoolyard program.

Delegate Attends Breakout Session Snack at ECS (Photo by Dreya Green)

ECS benefits from the efforts of Grow Pittsburgh, a non-profit organization dedicated to encouraging the commonplace consumption of healthy, local foods. The Edible Schoolyard, one of the projects of Grow Pittsburgh, promotes the education and practice of healthy eating by instituting gardens in elementary schools to teach kids about healthy dietary options like vegetables.

Garden Sign at ECS (Photo by Dreya Green)

Because the gardening process is implemented into the school’s science program, the kids themselves plant, water, weed, and harvest the products of the gardens. Farmer Jim, the gardener working with the 3rd and 4th grades at ECS, called the experience of growing the vegetables “magical” for the students, and stated that the hands on process helps them retain the information they have learned The students consume the foods they have grown as snacks, and Grow Pittsburgh provides them with fresh, healthy options for lunch.

Typical Lunch Food at ECS (Photo by Dreya Green)

Maria Bowman, the Edible Schoolyard Program Manager, endorsed the benefits presented by the Grow Pittsburgh program. Ms. Bowman pointed out that the process of growing vegetables aids in reinforcing concepts of healthy food and smart eating. These concepts are then kept consistent throughout both lunch and class, in contrast to many other schools where unhealthy lunches served in boxes do not support lessons promoting good eating habits.

In addition to providing healthy food, the ECS participates in food rescuing, a process in which the school buys food on the verge of expiration from supermarkets, and prepares it the very same day for the students. The food is still fresh, and is saved from becoming a part of the 30-40% of food that is wasted in
America.

Fresh Fruit at ECS (Photo By Dreya Green)

As the One Young World delegates listened to the benefits of the program adopted by the school, many agreed that such a program could be implemented in their own countries to aid in the education of healthy eating. In time, projects such as Edible Schoolyard can become widespread, and an integral part of the food revolution.

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