Washington State University will develop and run a $1 million pilot project to create vegetable gardens at 70 elementary schools in four states, U.S. Department of Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack announced Thursday.
The People’s Garden School Pilot Program will benefit an estimated 2,800 students attending schools in Washington, New York, Iowa and Arkansas and serve as a national model to encourage similar school gardens.
“School gardens hold great promise for educating our kids about food production and nutrition,” said Vilsack in a news release. “Learning where food comes from and what fresh food tastes like, and the pride of growing and serving your own fruits and vegetables, are life-changing experiences. Engaging kids in our efforts to end childhood hunger and curb childhood obesity is critical if we are going to succeed.”
Kevin Concannon, USDA under secretary for Food, Nutrition and Consumer Services, said WSU is a leader when it comes gardening and garden-based learning.
The pilot project and Healthy Gardens, Healthy Youth program are authorized under the National School Lunch Act. The schools selected to participate in this pilot will come from urban, suburban, and rural communities and have at least 50 percent of their students qualified to receive free or reduced-price school meals.
The project is also part of the USDA People’s Garden Initiative to establish community and school gardens nationwide. The announcement comes as First Lady Michelle Obama’s Let’s Move! initiative celebrates April as National Gardening Month.