BURLINGTON, Vt., June 4 – Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) today announced that $120,000 has been awarded to establish community gardens at 40 schools throughout Vermont.
“This project addresses two major issues confronting not just Vermont but the entire nation,” Sanders said. “It will help students learn the importance of good nutrition and a healthy diet. It also will broaden the school curriculum and help make learning fun.”
The grant to the Vermont Community Foundation was secured by Sanders from the U.S. Department of Agriculture. Working through the Friends of Burlington Gardens, the hands-on educational program will provide material and supplies such as topsoil, compost, raised beds, fencing, hoses, rakes, hoes and trowels.
Each school will be linked to the Vermont Master Gardener program at the University of Vermont with experienced and trained gardeners to provide expert advice and assistance.
Students will learn about growing food and where food comes from. There will be lessons about diet and the benefits of fresh food compared to processed snacks. Student gardeners also will learn about Vermont’s rich agricultural history and, in the process, strengthen bonds between schools and their communities, and between schools and the sustainable agriculture producers and networks in Vermont.
Students will plant seeds and then nurture, cultivate, water and weed the fruit and vegetable gardens. At the end of the summer growing season, they will harvest what they have grown. Then salads, soups and healthy snacks made from the freshly-picked produce will end up on the menu for school lunch programs.
The practical gardening experience will be augmented by classroom lessons on healthy diet practices. The current epidemic of obesity in America, and childhood obesity in particular, is directly related to diet. By growing their own food, students will be more likely to eat smarter and ask their parents to serve more fruits and vegetables at home.
“It is my hope that this project will prove to be a successful pilot and eventually help bring school community gardens to every school in the nation,” Sanders said.