Farm To Tray

  • Location
    Pearland, Texas
  • Status
  • Age Level
    Any Age

The Problem

The problem I am seeking to fix is poor child nutrition in American public schools. Although the fix seems obvious, serving healthier food in schools, unfortunately, the solution is challenging. The root of the problem is twofold. First, due to the school's overcrowding and lack of funding, most of our 2500+ students eat reheated or frozen, which significantly lacks essential vitamins and minerals and is high in trans and saturated fat. Unfortunately, this problem impacts my school cafeteria and the 30+ million children per day The National School Lunch Program serves. Even worse, these students receive 1/3 of the nutrition from unhealthy lunches and breakfasts. Food quality is only the tip of the iceberg; a lack of proper nutrition is detrimental to everything. First, unhealthy food leads to decreased cognitive ability, reduced attention, and memory span, thus limiting students' potential to learn. Second, the rampant obesity problem is plaguing America. The obesity rate of children and teens has tripled since the 1970s, and now nearly 1/5th of school-aged children have obesity. Children with obesity have an elevated risk for other health complications such as stroke, diabetes, asthma, and high blood pressure. Third, poor nutrition leads to developmental and mental health problems—higher anxiety, stress, and depression. Lastly, due to the high trans fatty acids in school food, many students have increased anger, impatience, and irritability, which disrupts learning for other students. Secondly, the problem lies in the students themselves. Although schools can serve healthier food, if the students do not eat the food, then the solution does not work. Students have yet to be taught proper nutritional habits from a young age. As a result, many think what they eat is healthy, when in fact, 56% of children in America have poor diets. Habits created at a young age often stick into adulthood, leading to a lifelong cycle of poor nutrition and adverse health problems. Fortunately, this problem has a silver lining. Nutrition education and healthy food served at school will tackle both aspects of the equation. By teaching kids, from a young age, about healthy eating and proper diets, not only will these students be more likely to lead diets into adulthood, dramatically reducing obesity and heart problems in America, but they will also have increased mood and cognitive ability in school. In addition, by teaching students about the severe adverse effect associated with unhealthy eating, they are more likely to adopt healthy eating practices in and out of school, which dramatically hamper the rising obesity problem in our nation.

Our Plan

To combat such issues, I propose bringing Farm-to-Tray(FTT), my hydroponic nonprofit, to schools nationwide. Hydroponics involves cultivating plants in trays without soil in a temperature and pH-controlled nutrient-rich water environment with oxygen. With this in mind, my mission is to institute a hydroponics system that will provide cheap, fresh green organic produce to my students across America. To achieve this goal, we will partner with Moonflower Farms, a hydroponic farm in Houston, facilitating the transfer of technology and setting up all the needed equipment. The student body will run the program within the environmental club. The produce generated by this cultivation would be used in the school cafeteria system. This healthier nutrition option will help mitigate the school's troubles with physical and mental health, disciplinary troubles, and impaired learning. Furthermore, introducing this technology could educate students, allow hands-on engagement in farming, and inspire other communities to pursue Hydroponics. My long-term action plan is only starting. I have already piloted the first Hydroponic system in Pearland and my school district, Alvin ISD. After securing a grant from Earthforce X Chiptole, I could not only fully fund one system in my school but also fund the expansion of Hydroponics to other schools in my district. I plan to expand to 8 already interested schools by March in my district alone. Although in parallel, I am working with schools and teachers from Ghana, India, and other American states.

Themes Addressed

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    Climate Change
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    Food Choices
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    Food Insecurity
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The Benefit

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