Eat Your Veggies

  • Location
    Hoschton, Georgia
  • Status
  • Age Level
    5 to 7 Years

The Problem

The problem we identified at our school was food waste, specifically, fruits and vegetables thrown away during breakfast and lunch. A majority of our students do not prefer to eat the fruits and vegetables offerred by the cafeteria. We investigated the options offerred and determined there was a variety of both categories including raw, cooked, mixed, combined in casseroles (veg) or frozen cups (fruit). We concluded that students were not eager to try new fruits or vegetables or chose to eat other items on the tray in place of those options. According to research on school gardens, students are more likely to try fruits and vegetables if they are actively involved in growing them in the garden.

Our Plan

We have several raised garden beds, and plan to have students plant vegetables in the spring. They will plan (pick the seeds and plan garden spacing on a grid), plant, tend, and harvest the vegetables. They will also maintain the vermicomposter, which produces fertilizer to spray on the plants. We will conduct taste tests and have cooking demonstrations. We plan to track students involvement in the garden, how many times per week and the type of activities. We plan to do a pre/post survey regarding the students willingness to try new vegetables. We also plan to track the amount of fruits/vegetables not eaten by our class over time to see if those numbers decrease.

Themes Addressed

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    Food Choices
  • term icon
    Zero Waste

The Benefit

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Here is how the project went:

Through this project we learned that when we take an active role in planting, tending, and growing our own vegetables we are more interested in trying and eating new and unfamiliar foods. One of our first-grade standards focuses on plants, and our year-long project is maintaining the garden. This year our students took a more active role in gardening, adding a raised planted and farm stand on the patio outside our classroom door. These were in addition to the garden beds in the first-grade garden. The funds from this grant were used to purchase a vermicomposter, a worm composting system which produces a nutrient rich soil and worm tea used for fertilization. The students were involved in a various roles related to the vermicomposter and garden. At lunch, students collected leftovers (fruits and vegetables) and then added them to the bin as food for the worms. Every few weeks, they collected “worm tea” from the vermicomposter and sprayed it on our farm stand and carrot planter as fertilizer. Once our first harvest of vegetables was ready to harvest, we used Red Cloud Tatsoi, Bok Choy, Rainbow Swiss Chard, and Red Mizuna to make spring rolls. All the students were willing to try them and most of them LOVED them! None of the students had ever eaten these vegetables before.

Through this project I/we learned:

Our class learned that they can play an important role in helping our community by teaching them about growing crops and trying new foods. Growing interesting foods provides new food sources and prompting people to try new foods reduces waste, as it did in our own cafeteria.

What I/we might change:

This is ongoing, as we chose to use the funds for a sustainable project. However, in the future we plan to sell some of our vegetables to parents, at school festivals, and the farmer’s market to generate revenue for supplies. To maintain the vermicomposter we will need more bedding made from coconut coir and replacement worms. I would also get a smaller composter that would be easier to move between school and home, since I take it home over breaks.

My/our favorite part of this project was:

I loved seeing how excited the students were about working with the worms and taking care of the garden. This project made a lifelong impact on these kiddos, showing them that they can grow their own food and that they should try new things because it brings new experiences, often better than they expected!

Some tips, tricks or fun facts about the project:

This was an amazing experience for our class, as the students took the lead in planting, tending, and harvesting the vegetables. Don’t be afraid of worm composting, it may seem a little creepy, but it is really COOL! Even the kiddos that were squeamish about them at the beginning of the year, now consider them our class pets and realize how they contribute to the success of our garden. One tip is to grind the food leftovers before putting them in the vermicomposter so that they can be easily digested by the worms. Also, be cautious about the leftovers you choose to use, certain foods can be quite odorous when they decompose (onions, broccoli, garlic, etc.). Finally, let your students do as much of the “work” as possible so that they take ownership of the experience. Our students were eager to eat the food they had grown because they had worked so hard to make it.

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