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School gardens grow, feeding students and teaching about food production and healthy habits

September 14, 2013
King School students joined the work at the first ever garden harvest Saturday.
King School students joined the work at the first ever garden harvest Saturday.
Garden parties on Portland Public Schools grounds are a common sight this time of year. Many school gardens not only educate students about food production and healthy eating, but also provide produce for the school cafeteria.

Foodies talk of the environmental and health benefits of the slow food movement, but food doesn't come from any fresher and close to home than the tasty lemon cucumbers and cherry tomatoes used in the King School cafeteria this week.

Or the tomatoes and fresh potatoes with rosemary served this week in the Ockley Green cafeteria.

All of those vegetables were grown at school gardens. The popular trend -- using school gardens to educate students about food production and healthy eating -- now includes providing some fresh food to school cafeterias.

It's a practice embraced by Portland Public Schools's Nutrition Services Department, a national leader in buying locally grown food and a recent recipient of an Oregon Department of Education grant to take that support of Oregon farmers and ranchers even further.

At the King School, students, families and staff gathered Saturday morning for the school's first ever garden harvest.

Volunteers cleared beds, weeded, and mulched, and paused only to visit with fellow students and their families -- or enjoy the delicious grapes grown in the school courtyard.

Parent Volunteer Coordinator Julie Davis said the garden program is in its third year.

The nearby Whole Foods, on Northeast Fremont Street and 15th Avenue, for the last two years has supplied the school with a garden grant that provides vegetable starts, snacks, seeds and support. Mrs. Meyers cleaning supplies donated two dozen garden kits for youngsters.

Saturday, volunteers planted kale, lettuce, and Brussels sprouts. Students will eat those veggies in the cafeteria when the crop matures in the winter, Davis said.

Whole Foods marketing team leader Erin Rosvold said the partnership, part of a Whole Foods national initiative, is great because it lets adults model community service for children, and because it strengthens community ties.

Principal Eryn Berg thanked parent volunteers, staff and Whole Foods for all taking part Saturday. "It's amazing to bring people together to do this kind of thing," she said.

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