School gardens in Cabarrus County will soon be overflowing with delicious and nutritious vegetables and herbs thanks to community collaboration between Cabarrus Health Alliance (CHA), the Dole Food Company, Earth Fare, and the NC State Plants for Human Health Institute (NC State PHHI).
The Cabarrus County School Garden Initiative was established by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) Racial and Ethnic Approaches to Community Health (REACH) grant, awarded to Cabarrus Health Alliance in 2014. The grant aims to increase access to clinical and community linkages, physical activity opportunities and healthy food environments.
School gardens are an essential component to addressing access to healthy foods. There are several benefits associated with establishing a school garden including increased student and teacher engagement and increased consumption of fruits and vegetables. Exposure to gardens at a young age can help promote positive attitudes about healthy foods. "Students learn where their vegetables come from and how to grow them, which is something they can do at home as well as at school. The garden is a great outdoor learning lab and is probably the least expensive classroom a school can build" said Doug Vernon from NC State PHHI.
Eight school gardens were established and/or revived last year in Cabarrus County with funding from REACH. However, through generous donations from the Dole Food Company and Earth Fare, four new sites were selected this year.
The new school garden sites include G.W. Carver Elementary School in Kannapolis and W.M. Irvin Elementary School, Winecoff Elementary School, and W.R. Odell Primary School in Concord. Garden builds took place throughout November 2017 with support from students, teachers, and volunteers. Each site is now home to at least eight new raised beds and a tool shed that houses gardening and seeding materials. Garden sites also received plant light banks that currently support transfer crops for the spring planting season. Schools expect to plant and harvest the fruits of their labor by the end of the school year.
Along with providing garden infrastructure and materials, supplementary Professional Development sessions are offered in the fall and spring semester, where school garden teams learn about gardening basics. Teachers also have access to garden related curriculums that incorporate state math and science standards. Curriculums are designed by Amy Bowman, Extension Associate at NC State PHHI.
If you have questions or would like to learn more about the REACH School Garden Initiative, please contact Asma Warrich, REACH Program Coordinator, at Asma.Warrich@Cabarrushealth.org or 704-920-1291.