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Hydroponic garden extends growing season & nutrition opportunities at San Pedro Elementary

NFSN Staff Tuesday, October 29, 2019
Photo Credit: Sanzuma
With a goal of connecting more students across the country to indoor gardening opportunities, Hawthorne Gardening Company and National Farm to School Network have launched a pilot project to integrate hydroponic growing systems into classrooms and science curricula this school year. This is the story of how one partner school–San Pedro Elementary in San Rafael, CA–is using the hydroponic garden to give students a year-round learning experience of bringing food seed-to-table.

Guest blog written by Lori Davis, Executive Director, Sanzuma

San Pedro Elementary School, located in San Rafael, California, has 572 students. Approximately 97 percent of our student population is Latino, with cultural groups predominantly originating from Guatemala, El Salvador, and Mexico. Sanzuma is San Pedro’s nonprofit partner that focuses on improving wellness in Marin County’s low-income schools by helping turn school gardens into productive farms that produce organic food for school meal programs. 

On behalf of Sanzuma (where I serve as Executive Director) and San Pedro Elementary School, we are thrilled to be a part of National Farm to School Network and Hawthorne Gardening Company’s hydroponic pilot project and to bring the benefits of indoor gardens to our students. The hydroponic garden is an exciting addition to the educational learning environment at San Pedro, where staff are dedicated to meeting the needs of the school's many English language learners and helping all students achieve high academic goals. We believe that understanding nutrition and where food comes from are important parts of every student’s education. We’ve selected one classroom that Sanzuma will work with to care for the new hydroponic garden. The newly developed curriculum that was designed for this pilot project will be used with students to incorporate their garden experiences into science and STEM lessons. 

One of the most exciting aspects of the new hydroponic growing system is that it will allow students to grow food that ordinarily would be out of season. Normally, we can grow tomatoes only during the summer months when the majority of students are on summer break. With the season extension offered by the indoor hydroponic system, we can grow nutrient-rich food throughout the school year–allowing students to be part of that growing process and giving more students access to this food in the cafeteria.

With the new ability to extend our growing season, we’ll also gain ample time to introduce new vegetables to students before they stop by the salad bar at lunch. We will do this by including the crops we grow hydroponically in taste tests. 

Through this project, we hope students will develop a deep understanding of the value and importance of growing food, the importance of eating healthy, and how hydroponics can be an alternative growing method to traditional gardening. This pilot program will give our students a hands-on, project-based opportunity to understand the full circle of growing food from seed to table. 

More About Sanzuma 
Founded in 2012, Sanzuma calls our program “farm to student” because we emphasize nutrition education, taste tests, healthy cooking, and enhancing the lunchroom atmosphere with nutritional messaging. We also focus on school wellness policy work at the state and local level and staff wellness at the schools where our garden programs are run. The food we grow on our school farm is purchased by the San Rafael City School District and included in their salad bars. We have taught thousands of taste tests, nutrition classes, farm to table cooking classes and staff wellness workshops. We teach students (and families) from a very young age how and why to eat healthy, maintain a healthy lifestyle and always have access to healthy food. Learn more about Saunzum and our work at www.sanzuma.org


This blog is part of a series that focuses on National Farm to School Network and Hawthorne Gardening Company’s work to bring more indoor gardens to more schools. Learn more about the Gro More Good Hydroponics Pilot Project and read more blogs in this series here


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