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.

  • What a Waste

    Another example of the federal waste! $357 per student. But we have to cut classrooms. Get the feds out of education! Gee, it’s nice to know we can make Michelle feel good.

  • sleuther

    Commenter: What a waste–? I smell Mudddd….

  • Doc Mudd

    Nope. Isn’t me.
    But I did the math, too. $357 per kid does seem like a lot of money. An overpriced ripoff like that must be organic gardening.
    Ahhh, savor the Mudddd…! You love it, you know you do.

  • sleuther

    ah…. Muddd –nothing like savoring your own stinkyness!
    …but when you read the fine print of this project there’s a host of Expertise Providers soaking up almost half of these funds…
    Funny though, talking with old Mr Allen in his 80’s the other day — who was a child living on a small farm during the Great Depression — “well, we always had enough to eat, but you couldn’t be too choosey — we ate every part of the pig except the Oink”…. Married and in town during WWII his family did OK with a large Victory Garden too — and he’s still spry, out working in his garden today. I was fortunate to have a grandmother introduce me as a child to healthy growing — and that’s why the symbolism of the White House garden is so important…

  • Doc Mudd

    “…there’s a host of Expertise Providers soaking up almost half of these funds…”
    “Expertise Providers” translation: Modern day organic parasites. Not much different from soil nematodes except they only burrow for grant money.
    We never implied the kids would each receive $357 or any cash at all – nope, they will get to gnaw on a wormy radish or some bug-chewed chard for our investment.
    Only insidious “Expertise Providers” could pull this off! They’re pros, so don’t try this at home, kids!

  • RGoddard

    If you look at this as a program benefiting only a few kids, then it does seem expensive. However, the intent is for having many schools DEVELOP a gardening program, finding the best curricula, and then letting other schools benefit from best practices. In other words, it won’t help just 2800 students as the article suggests, but hundreds of thousands.
    Making a curriculum in any area is expensive which is why school books cost so much. This has the potential for benefiting so many in an area that is not well addressed in schools. Open up your minds to the possibilities instead of jumping on the federal funding waste bandwagon.

  • Sarah C

    I agree with RGoddard. And $357 per student doesn’t seem too high to me; I’m sure other classes cost far more than that, and what could be more rudimentary and important to know about than the basic building block of life — live, growing food?
    This is what money is for: to give ourselves a WEALTH of experience. Money in the bank doesn’t do a darn thing, but children witnessing bugs and dirt and growing things is an experience that will last a lifetime for each of those kids.

  • MTS

    Great idea. What Alice Waters conceived years ago is getting the attention and funding it deserves. Edible gardens provide a hands-on learning experience and they can easily incorporate other disciplines — science, math, and even language. Our kids need life skills and a way to be reconnected to real food.

  • mjoye

    I am a pediatrician who is very concerned about the epidemic of “adult diseases” present in increasing numbers of young children that is caused by diet , lack of physical activity,and other factors. RGoddard”s comment above is right on. The four comments above his/hers miss the issue completly. Learning about and eating food that you have grown yourself and doing some physical labor cuold be life saving literaly for some children. The more the merryer the better.

  • Doc Mudd

    Alice Waters invented gardening? Really, just like Al Gore invented the internet.
    We would be much, much better off spending the $357 per student teaching them math and science to let them be at least functional in the global society they will compete in.
    Otherwise they will end up being someone’s gardener somewhere. And that’s where they will need lanquage skills – Chinese.

  • MTS

    Food is a global issue.
    A little research will show you that Alice Waters has been incremental in starting the first Edible Schoolyard program at the Martin Luther King Jr. Middle School in Berkley, California. Many schools throughout the country have them now. Let’s teach our children that food is important — let’s do something to reduce the obesity/type 2 diabetes epidemic. Let them be a gardener if they choose to — and they will be one who knows how to utilize math and science and history and sustainabilty AND (why not?) speak Chinese!

  • CButts

    DocMudd you hit the nail on the head!
    We would be much, much better off spending the $357 per student teaching them math and science to let them be at least functional in the global society they will compete in.
    Guess where is a great place to learn about math and science? In a school garden! The grant is designed to help with nutrition education, but a garden is a phenomenal resource that can be touched upon in virtually every subject area. Students will also be much more likely to remember what they learned because they’re actually doing something instead of reading about it in an overpriced textbook. Keep in mind that $357 is only a one time cost for infrastructure. You should revise your math to account for all of the students next school year and the ones that follow that will learn about math and science from a garden created with that “seed” money.