Funston Elementary—a magnificent school on the northwest side of Chicago—became the proud recipient of a Big Green Learning Garden back in August 2017. Since the development of the garden, Funston has quickly become a shining example of a school community that’s empowering students to grow their own food and make healthier, more nutritious dietary choices. Gina Shields-Pacheco, a teacher and garden team leader at Funston, noted that students who interact with the Learning Garden “learn about vegetables and how they can be used… and have a blast learning and trying all of the healthy options that are produced through the garden.”
This type of transformative school gardening isn’t just happening at Funston, but all throughout Chicago and the United States!
According to a 2015 census report conducted by the USDA’s Office of Community Food Systems (OCFS), there is a total of 7,000 gardens on school campuses across the country. Furthermore, 42% of districts said they participate in farm-to-school activities. When I first came across this data, my initial thought was “I wonder how many school gardens have been developed since then?” Fortunately, I won’t have to wait too much longer to find out! The OCFS will be collecting data from the 2017-2018 school year to use for their 2019 Farm-to-School census report.
One of the USDA’s goals in collecting this data is to demonstrate the effective nature of farm-to-school programs. At Big Green, we really appreciate this effort, because we’ve seen firsthand the transformative power of school gardens. We’ve developed relationships with teachers and students at schools, like Funston, who now think differently about where their food comes from and what it means to make healthy, nutritious food choices. We even collected our own data back in 2015 and discovered that:
- 98% of Big Green teachers agree that participation in the learning garden increases student awareness of healthy foods.
- Students who participate in a Big Green Learning Garden are 23% more likely to eat fruits and vegetables.
- 3 out of 4 students surveyed talk to their families about their experience in the Learning Garden
This data demonstrates the powerful impact that an experience with a school garden can have on the lives of students and teachers. With that said, we look forward to the insight that will come from the USDA’s 2019 Farm-to-School Census report and appreciate their ongoing support as we work to bring the real food movement to every student throughout the country!
To learn more about the 2015 USDA Farm to Table census data, click here, and keep your eye out for more information to participate in the upcoming 2019 census.