ENCINITAS — Ocean Knoll Elementary students harvested the bounty of their hard work as they sampled their produce grown in a lot behind the school. Students celebrated the Garden to Table project on March 14.“It was a lovely day,” Mim Michelove, the district’s Healthy Day Partners garden coordinator said, recalling the mood at the school. “The main kitchen staff prepared the school-grown lettuce for the salad bar and even made kale chips from the kids’ bounty to serve on the side! All of the students had a taste of the delicious kale chips and many students, parents and teachers partook in the salad bar for lunch.” This cycle started with the weekly rotations that all children at the school participate in known as TLP. During this time, students have an opportunity to participate in hands-on nutritional learning through garden lessons, garden-based science classes and a nutritional lab where they prepare what they have grown and other healthful foods.The program is funded through Parent Teacher Association donations and a grant from the Sage Garden Project.
“Though everyone had a hand in the growing of the food, the third-graders harvested the 27 heads of lettuce and nine heads of kale,” Michelove said.
Kevin Lappitus, head of nutrition services for the district, was instrumental in shepherding the project through the garden to table cycle, according to Michelove. “We try to model wellness, not just talk about it,” Lappitus said. “If kids see the entire process from seed to table we thought they would get more excited about eating healthy and more receptive to trying new foods.” “This is what happens when you combine a district that is committed to bringing the best education to their students with a school that promotes garden-based learning experiences,” Michelove said.
The benefits of the program will last far beyond the harvest, according to Michelove. “You have a powerful one-two punch that knocks obesity and Type 2 diabetes off their epidemic status while giving children a well-rounded education that includes the tools to be responsible for their health, now and in the future,” she said. “It is a beautiful combination. The kids can be proud of growing their skill and a great lunch.”
The project has garnered the attention of local healthy eating advocates as well. “Kids really are at Jimbo’s heart,” Jimbo’s Naturally Director of Marketing Kelly Hartford said. “At this community farm kids really get to experience healthy eating hands on.”
As a result of partnering with Jimbo’s through an onsite school healthy cooking demonstration, Michelove and Hartford continued to look for ways to expand the opportunities for students to grow their own healthy food.
“This event marked the beginning of the students growing their own lunches,” Michelove said. “The more kids grow, the more they harvest and the more they can enjoy in their school lunches. We have learned that kids will try more varieties of vegetables if they participate in the experience of growing them.”
“Jimbo’s is all about educating the kids on what food is and what healthy food is,” Hartford said. “It’s Jimbo’s vision to have a piece of organic fruit in every child’s recycled lunch bag.”
The community will have an opportunity to support the program on April 14, as Jimbo’s will donate 5 percent of all sales to the farm. In addition, customers will save an extra 5 percent that they may opt to donate to the program as well.