“Good food is a right, not a privilege. It brings children into a positive relationship with their health, community, and environment.” – Alice Waters, Chef and Founder of the Edible Schoolyard
Food can transport you to another world, connect you with nature, other cultures, and your own body. The school garden is also an excellent teaching tool, offering a hands-on application for so many subjects.
By nurturing living things, students develop responsibility, patience, and empathy. There’s also no better way to get a child to eat healthy food than to involve them in growing and cooking it. This is especially critical for low-income populations which are disproportionately affected by a lack of access to fresh produce and quality nutrition education. Unfortunately, many school cafeterias, especially those in low-income areas, rely on highly processed foods.
When AGC opened our doors and built our first garden, we dreamed of watching our students grow food for their own meals. However, at the time, it was not possible for school gardens to use their own produce in federally-funded school meal programs. There was no food safety procedure established that catered to the specifics of a school garden. For our first several years, we gave produce away from a folding table in our parking lot or slipped vegetables into our students’ backpacks for their parents.
In 2012, the Academy for Global Citizenship joined forces with FamilyFarmed.org, Chicago Public Schools, and the Chicago Botanic Garden to create the district’s first school garden food safety manual and training program. With support from the USDA, Healthy Schools, Campaign, and others, this group developed and piloted a program which has made it possible for thousands of students around the city to eat what they grow. Since launching with an 8-school pilot in 2013, this program has been fully adopted by Chicago Public Schools and has expanded to reach students across the city.
Recently, thanks to a generous grant, this program has been expanded to serve an additional 130 schools and to incorporate job training for high school students. We are tremendously proud of the way this initiative has grown and grateful to our partners at Chicago Public Schools for their incredible advocacy on behalf of our city’s students.
AGC’s edible schoolyard includes a greenhouse, over 40 large raised beds, and a chicken coop. Here, students and families can study every aspect of growing food. They choose heirloom seeds, help them grow, and sell them in schoolyard farmers’ markets or to local businesses. They also care for four schoolyard chickens and collect their eggs.
Our vision for the future expands this concept across 3 acres. AGC recently purchased just over 6 acres a few blocks away from our current rented building on which to build a revolutionary new sustainable campus. Nearly half of this site will be reserved for urban agriculture, which with help from a farm partner, will contribute significantly to AGC’s scratch-made and local meal program. Click here to learn more about our future.
To support an AGC student’s access to healthy meals, consider making small monthly contribution of $7 to offset the cost of local and sustainably-sourced produce in our scratch-made meals. Click here to make a generous donation.