Organic Learning Garden
Orleans Elementary School is proud of its organic learning garden that is proving to benefit many in healthful ways. The idea of a school garden was the brainchild of members of the school’s Grade 4 and Grade 5 student leadership team, the Kids’ Council. Their goal was to establish a school garden, growing their own organic fruits and vegetables that could then be used in the school’s cafeteria as a fresh and healthy food source.
In presenting the idea to staff members, the school’s Parent Teacher Organization and Health and Wellness Committee members, all saw the benefits that could be forthcoming. Donations were sought and acquired from the Nauset Garden Club, Orleans Pond Coalition and Parent Teacher Organization, as well as local vendors for product. The garden was planned and created, and on a sunny day last spring, parent volunteers assisted each grade level of students in planting a section of the garden. Hands got dirty and energy and enthusiasm were high!
It was lovingly observed and tended by many, and continued to be so during the summer months by special needs students and their educational assistants in Nauset’s summer school program. Foods harvested went into the cafeteria in September, and students took great pride in knowing what they were eating had come from the school’s garden, which they helped plant.
The project received enthusiastic support and has continued to expand with the addition of a greenhouse-equipped potting shed that was donated by Pine Harbor Wood Products, the acquisition of an expanding array of gardening tools for student use, the establishment of a Junior Garden Club that meets monthly during the school year and expanded healthy eating choices in the cafeteria.
A partnership with local farmers has been forged and informational presentations take place during all school meeting times. The school has further partnered with a local chef in conjunction with First Lady Michelle Obama’s Chefs Move to Schools program. With the assistance of Chef Jerome Watkins, a jointly prepared lunch is prepared and served each month in the cafeteria consisting of as many fresh fruits and vegetables as possible.
Orleans Elementary School continues to plan ahead with its garden project, next looking to an effective composting system, more deliberate planning of crop planting, student education and outreach for associated community connections that will dovetail with the mission of healthy eating and living. – cha
Story by Diane Carreiro, Spring 2011, Edited by Susan Spencer
Diane Carreiro is the principal of Orleans Elementary School
Growing and Re-membering Projects
Food is the heart of community on the Cape and Islands, from traditional potluck suppers to festivals celebrating oysters, strawberries, cranberries and more. The essential nature of producing and sharing our food is as relevant today as it was 500 years ago as communities seek to reconnect not only with their local food source, but also with each other.
Highlighted here a few excellent programs across the Cape that are being supported by local community groups, businesses and individuals and connected through the Barnstable County Department of Human Services’ Healthy Connected Cape Cod initiative and its Healthy and Happy Eating project.
THE MUSTARD SEED KITCHEN, Wellfleet – Started in the late 1990s as an after-school drop-in center, the Mustard Seed Kitchen volunteers now prepare, package and deliver some 5,000 nutritious meals a year to homebound residents of Wellfleet, Eastham and Truro. Much of the food is organic and locally grown. The program operates out of the First Congregational Church of Wellfleet.
THE GARDEN AT BARNSTABLE COMMUNITY HORACE MANN CHARTER PUBLIC SCHOOL, Hyannis – Students in Kindergarten through Grade 3 began the hands-on, organic garden last year with soil tests and planting blueberry bushes. This spring they’re building raised beds. They’ve learned about gardening, diet and exercise as part of their “healthy bodies, healthy minds” curriculum.
FALMOUTH SERVICE CENTER, Falmouth – Volunteers and members of CapeAbilities, a nonprofit organization that serves people with disabilities, work with the county and Stop & Shop Supermarkets to help shoppers make healthy food choices by affixing shelf labels identifying nutritious food. Shoppers can donate to the Cape Cod Hunger Network’s food pantries through collection stations at Stop & Shop Supermarkets.
FULL CIRCLE FOOD PROJECT, Redberry Farm, Eastham – Founded by Truro native Anna Henning and supported by Bob Wells of New England Biochar, Full Circle Food Project works with Nauset youth and community members, particularly those with financial need, to grow and deliver to farmers markets organic food using sustainable agriculture practices. The project’s micro-farm co-op helps residents grow food in raised beds in their own backyard. – cha
By Steve Brown, Edited by Susan Spencer
Steve Brown, a member of the Barnstable County Health and Human Services Advisory Council and former project coordinator for Healthy Connected Cape Cod, contributed this information. Visit www.bchumanservices.net or contact Department of Human Services Director Beth Albert at 508-375-6628, e-mail email@example.com.