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One shining example of a Big Garden site that really knows how to put their garden to use is Nelson Mandela Elementary School in Omaha, Nebraska. The children and teachers there have worked alongside parents and other neighborhood volunteers to create a beautiful, thriving garden filled with cucumbers, watermelons, pumpkins, broccoli, tomatoes, and potatoes, just to name a few! They’ve even planted an herb spiral and a special garden just for pollinators!
Working in the garden, the children get hands-on experience, learning what it takes to plant and care for a seedling. Along the way they learn about pollinators, companion planting, and healthy soil. Then, when the time is ripe, they get the satisfaction of harvesting the produce they have grown. But the fun and learning doesn’t stop there.
After the children harvest the fresh fruits and vegetables from their garden, the school culinary specialist demonstrates delicious ways that it can be used in lunches and snacks, always using low-sugar, nutrient-dense ingredients. So far this year, she and the students have made pickles, kale chips, pickled peppers, zucchini cake, and more! This access to fresh, healthy food is vitally important for children in a school district where roughly 75% of elementary students qualify for the free-and-reduced lunch program.
At the Big Garden, we believe that teaching children to grow their own food is an important part of reducing hunger. When children learn to grow, cook, and preserve food, they gain access and skills to ensure a healthy future for themselves and their community. In this way, we are working to grow a new generation of stewards of the land who will create a more just and secure food system. Because going to school shouldn’t only be about creating healthy minds, but healthy bodies too.
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