GroMoreGood Hydroponics Project: Outcomes, Highlights, and More!

NFSN Staff
August 15, 2022

By Jasmin Edrington, NFSN Program Fellow

In the 2020-2021 school year, Scotts Miracle-Gro (SMG) partnered with the National Farm to School Network (NFSN) to send 15 hydroponics garden systems to schools across the country. This project came with great success and has been renewed for a second year to provide another 25 schools with the opportunity to enhance their farm-to-school education with the indoor hydroponics garden. 

The GroMoreGood Hydroponics project has helped teachers to educate their students on the topics of food, agriculture, science, and plant growth, but also underscored the importance of community, responsibility, and teamwork — all while having a lot of fun! This hands-on experience has changed the lives of students and teachers as well as increased their love for gardening, science, and healthy eating. 

This opportunity has brought enrichment into many teachers’ curriculum. The participating teachers have always loved to teach about science and with the Discovering Through Hydroponics curriculum, they were able to enhance the learning experience and offered great perspectives about growing plants. Hands-on learning opportunities increase students’ interest in the subject. Teachers have incorporated the hydroponics garden into science lesson plans about life cycles and the parts of plants. At Klamath County, Brittany Rodriquez was able to connect their taste tests to math by “requiring students to convert, and multiply, measurements for recipes.” Many have brought the excitement about the garden into their writing classes, allowing students to strengthen both their language and science skills. At Thunderbolt Elementary School, Tracy Johnston showed her students a documentary about bees, connecting bees to pollination and plant growth and tying it back to their hydroponics system. These connections have created a better understanding of how nature is all connected.

The hydroponics garden has equipped teachers with a vessel through which they can teach their students about responsibility and teamwork. The students have a sense of pride in the hydroponics garden and are often eager to take care of it or plan something new. Students at Poinciana, for example, are highly dedicated to taking care of the hydroponics garden. Even when the teacher, Sherry Ashley, was not there, students watered the hydroponics garden when it was looking dry and sometimes took a few extra leaves to eat in between classes. Alice Burns, a teacher at Bancroft Elementary School shared that the hydroponics garden has taught her students “care and responsibility of a living organism” and says that her students “took pride and felt connected by caring for the garden.” The hydroponics garden has encouraged students to work together to create something beautiful, therefore strengthening their cooperation and communication skills.

Kelly Jensen, from Manuel Lito Peña Jr. School, has 100 students in her after school garden club, where students eagerly attend to learn more about plants, gardening, and healthy eating and want to start their own gardens at home. These students take extra time out of their day to come to her after school program, proving their genuine excitement about the subject. She leads highly scientific discussions, inspiring students to experiment on their own. As many students at Manuel Lito Peña are of lower income families, not everyone has the means to start their own high-tech hydroponics garden at home. This has led to discussion about how families can grow healthy foods in their homes without fancy equipment, encouraging students to be creative and innovative to bring the joy of gardening to their own homes. Many other teachers have also noticed the students’ eagerness to bring what they’ve learned back home.

Students at Thunderbolt Elementary sampling the salad greens from the hydroponics system and taking care of the produce using their pollinator.

For many of the students, coming into the classroom with the hydroponics garden is the highlight of their day. Students are excited to come to school and excited to come to class. Tracy Johnston at Thunderbolt Elementary says that students always come running into her classroom asking “What are we eating today?” Students are itching to play with the hydroponics garden and are enthusiastic about trying healthy foods. “My students beg to be able to taste tomatoes, to eat salad, and to drink green shakes!!” says Tracy. Many students involved in this project are located in food deserts, meaning they do not always have access to affordable and nutritious food. And even the students who do have access to these foods didn’t always like to eat them. Throughout the project, multiple teachers have seen specific improvements in students who disliked fruits and vegetables who have transformed into veggie lovers and advocates of healthy eating. Many students have convinced their parents to use more vegetables and cook healthier meals. At North Andrews Gardens Elementary, the lettuce is growing so quickly that they have delicious lettuce to eat every week and hosted a salad bar using lettuce, tomatoes, and herbs grown in the hydroponics garden as well as some of the students other favorite toppings! She has also noticed that many students who used to dislike salad or didn’t care about healthy eating have started to enjoy the lettuce grown in the hydroponics garden and are more excited about making healthier choices. At Fairfield Elementary, the fully grown hydroponics garden excites the students and attracts teachers looking for healthy greens to add to their lunches.

Students at Fairfield Elementary learn together about Plant Science and how to build their hydroponics system.

The benefits of classroom gardening have impacted the lives of the students and teachers at the participating schools, allowing them to deepen their understanding of plants, increase their access to fresh food, and further develop their social emotional skills. The National Farm to School Network and Scotts Miracle-Gro are so happy that these 15 schools were able to participate in this program and are excited to see how the schools continue to use their gardens in the future!

Opinion: The cost of a lunch should not stand in the way of Colorado schoolchildren

NFSN Staff
June 20, 2022

By Tanna Schut

Tanna Schut is a parent and advocate located in Pueblo, Colorado

I’m glad schools are shifting their thinking about the lunches we serve our children. There’s more parent and student input, and we’re raising our voices to say healthy, local food is important to us. Assuring healthy meals for all schoolchildren will mean one less thing standing in the way of our children’s future, so all our children can succeed.

Read the full op-ed at The Colorado Sun

Schools should avail of state funding to serve more freshly prepared and locally grown food

NFSN Staff
May 25, 2022

By Brandy Dreibelbis

Brandy Dreibelbis is the Senior Director of School Operations at Chef Ann Foundation, which is dedicated to promoting whole-ingredient, scratch-cooking in schools. This approach enables schools to serve the healthiest, tastiest meals so that kids are well-fed and ready to learn.

Through the pandemic, we’ve learned how crucial school food is to America’s food supply. We’ve also learned how many school-age children and families depend on these meals. And we’ve learned how important our school food professionals are. Scratch cooking makes staff feel appreciated for their effort, and children are well-nourished and ready to learn. The kitchen staff are proud of what they’ve made. There’s a connection with the local farms. Supply chains are shorter and more crisis-proof — schools are less vulnerable to rising prices as food gets more difficult to source. Labor costs go to local folks because they are paid to cook in-house.

Read the full op-ed at EdSource

Opinion: Congress Should Act Now to Extend School Food Waivers

NFSN Staff
April 22, 2022

By Nausher Khan

Nausher Khan is an advisory board member of the National Farm to School Network and director of strategic business partnerships at Red Rabbit, LLC, USA’s largest Black-owned school food management company celebrating food from all cultures in the cafeteria.

Food is also a huge part of how we make kids feel. Our food matters not only because it’s integral to good health. It matters because what we eat is an essential part of our cultural identity and sense of self. Likewise, school districts have long used food to reinforce cultural hierarchy. That is why it’s a step towards social justice to acknowledge the cultural heritage of the food you serve. Yes, you can put a price on good food. But aspects of this equation are also priceless. They function on a deeper and more humane plane.

Read the full op-ed at City Limits

NFSN Lauds Hopeful Investments in Child Nutrition Through the Healthy Meals, Healthy Kids Act

NFSN Staff
July 25, 2022

On July 20, the House Committee on Education and Labor introduced the Healthy Meals, Healthy Kids Act, a package of legislation that would reauthorize and improve the largest child nutrition programs that support over 30 million kids every year. National Farm to School Network is pleased that this comprehensive legislation champions many key priorities for farm to school and farm to early care and education (ECE), but also outlines expanded investments in school meals and CACFP to support the whole of child nutrition.

Since the landmark passage of the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act of 2010, which updated nutrition standards for the first time in decades and created a Community Eligibility option for high-poverty schools, we have learned that school and ECE meals are more crucial than ever.

Among many positive provisions, the Healthy Meals, Healthy Kids Act would:

  • Create historic investments in child nutrition through an expanded Community Eligibility that would serve million more kids and offer higher reimbursement (similar to the provisions as outlined in the Build Back Better proposed legislation)
  • Increase reimbursement for non-CEP programs and increase support for CACFP
  • Expand the Farm to School Grant Program with a minimum of $15m per year in mandatory funding
  • Improve on the success of the F2S Grant Program with better access for Tribal applicants, improve grant prioritization, and review barriers for producers and applicants (See more about this language as outlined in the Farm to School Act of 2021)
  • Provide innovative flexibility for local procurement, as outlined in the Kids Eat Local Act, with added options for greater values-based procurement.
  • Grow support for scratch cooking with kitchen equipment grants and scratch cooking training, and adding scratch cooking as a focus of Team Nutrition grants.
  • Examine equity in procurement and operations with:
  • Request for Information on food service management company contracts
  • Review of Buy American provision to better support compliance
  • Support for summer food service (in-person and mobile delivery, summer EBT)
  • Creates a pilot for Tribal governments to assume operation of child nutrition programs in the role of state agencies; feasibility study of associated territories to operate their own child nutrition programs.

Farm to school and farm to ECE advocates know that child nutrition has the potential to create wins for kids, producers, and communities with the right innovations. NFSN calls on policymakers to look to this legislation as a model for investing at the earliest opportunity in the priorities we need for greater equity in child nutrition and the food system.

Learn more: See the Committee press release here, a section by section bill summary here, and the full legislative text here.

Comments Regarding the White House Conference on Hunger, Nutrition and Health

NFSN Staff
July 22, 2022

(Comments submitted July 15, 2022)

National Farm to School Network (NFSN) represents multi-sectoral national partners, organizations in all 50 states, Washington, D.C., the U.S. Territories, and Native nations, and tens of thousands of farm to school and early care and education (ECE) supporters. NFSN has a vision of a strong and just food system for all, and we seek deep transformation toward this vision through farm to school – the ways kids eat, grow, and learn about food in schools and early care and education settings. Farm to school is a win for kids when they eat nourishing food in meals and snacks, participate in hands-on activities and learn about the importance of where our food comes from; a win for farmers when school market opportunities provide reliable and consistent sales and fair pay; and a win for communities when food is grown, distributed, prepared and consumed for the benefit of every community member.

We appreciate the opportunity to shape the landmark White House Conference on Hunger, Nutrition, and Health this coming fall. NFSN Partner organizations offer a unique perspective on the goals and pillars proposed for the Conference, as they span grassroots community organizations, school districts and school nutrition directors, state agencies supporting child nutrition, food producers, and organizations supporting local food infrastructure and resilience.

NFSN conducted a listening session with our members in July 2022, with a request for feedback on the most important strategies and policies that the WH Conference planners should address to solve pressing crises of hunger, nutrition, and health. Our listening session heard direct accounts from NFSN members across 23 US States and Territories, and members of sovereign Tribal Nations. Nearly half of the organizations participating had BIPOC (Black, Indigenous, People of Color) leadership. Participants brought their experiences as parents, school meal and early care and education (ECE) professionals, nutrition educators, producers, and program administrators.

Feedback from our NFSN Partners is synthesized below, with illustrative quotes and first-hand experiences they shared.

Transformational Actions to Address Hunger, Nutrition, and Health

Allow child nutrition programs to meet their full potential

Child nutrition programs should ensure universal meals for early childhood through high school.

● “There’s a stigma around school meals. Only the "poor kids" eat school meals. We need to elevate school meals across the board, increase participation, AND keep them culturally-relevant.”

The financial model of federal child nutrition programs is inadequate to meet today’s challenges. Realistic reimbursement levels that allow school nutrition directors and CACFP providers to serve nourishing, tasty meals made fairly would be a good first step, but USDA should engage child nutrition providers in a more comprehensive review of the limitations of the current business model and possibilities for redesign.

● “The main barrier is cost on all points of procurement, whether it’s the nutrition director who can barely keep a full staff in the kitchen to prepare local food, or pay the markup so that it’s easier to use, costs make it unattainable for so many.”

● “With the transitional meal pattern and impending new meal pattern, we could see more scratch cooking but we lack infrastructure and pay our workers too little.”

Child nutrition program requirements should be overhauled to fund local procurement, ease administrative burden, and create meals that go beyond meeting nutrition standards to provide holistically nourishing and culturally relevant diets.

● “The transitional meal pattern and impending meal pattern change is great from a nutrition position, but it will still not look the way we would love school food to look.” ● “There is so much pressure on food service providers to feed entire schools with limited resources and recognition. This makes it difficult for them to add the extra effort of a balanced and educational diet to the day to day menu.”

● “Here one big issue in procuring local food is there's no incentive; a lot of food service directors have expressed that going through the whole process is way too burdensome. They don’t feel trusted to make proper decisions or ethically use funds so they’ve asked the state to focus more on distributors. Requiring GAP certification is nuts when a tomato grown in Indiana isn’t leaving Indiana.”

Support producers to grow and sell the nourishing foods that benefit Americans’ health.

Evolve USDA and USDA-funded purchasing to a more decentralized system to buy from small, beginning, “socially disadvantaged” and specialty crop producers.

● “Farmers and food producers in and around the community should be the priority source for schools, senior centers and ECEs to encourage fresh, from scratch foods that support local economies.”

● “We work mostly with what USDA calls socially disadvantaged farmers, Hmong and Latino farmers in the Twin Cities of Minnesota. We need storage, cold storage, logistics, that food hubs like ours provide, that would help schools to be able to work with one vendor and get one invoice, that has helped schools that work with us stay resilient in their food supply. But with that comes the need for infrastructure and technical support for producers who may not all be interested in selling to schools but if they are they have the support.”

● “What would it look like for the federal government to support the pipeline of farmers, public health professionals, etc. in the way they fund all medical residencies in the US?”

Target support for small, beginning, “socially disadvantaged” and specialty crop producers throughout USDA.

● “We must align federal farm policy with federal nutrition policy. As long as they are at odds, we will always be operating in a vicious cycle driven by profit.”

● “Our federal agriculture policies frame commodity farmers as “farmers” and specialty crops as “other,” even though it should be the bulk of our diets!”

● “We have some of the most fertile land in the country in Mississippi and yet there aren’t as many specialty crops that help support child nutrition. Smaller farming operations are often underfunded and the grant writing process is sometimes so arduous and complicated that it excludes smaller operations from being able to apply.”

Economic security and other basic necessities are inextricably linked to the ability to live a healthy life, including diet.

Food, farm, and school nutrition workers are among the most at risk of economic insecurity, and that must change.

● “From the school nutrition side – we have school nutrition staff whose own kids get free lunch. That’s a circular problem. If we don’t address this issue of school nutrition workers being valued professionals who have a secure place in our economy, the same thing for our food producers, we won’t be able to address hunger. We have to get at the root causes by addressing people throughout the food chain.”

Address living wage policies and root causes of hunger.

We’ve been addressing ending hunger actually at a very local level in New Mexico, and to do so we have to focus on poverty, and all the intersections between housing, support programs, and things like that. Here, our local group and city council recommends to provide a true living wage. If you’re going to end hunger, that’s what we have to do.”

● “We have to stop talking about hunger as a problem and start talking about it as a result of a broken, unsupported system.”

● “I find the goal interesting because it discusses ending hunger but not preventing it or addressing food systems issues…There is more to chronic, non-communicable disease than hunger.”

Nutrition programs, research, and meal patterns must be culturally responsive and not replicate oppression.

Ensure nutrition education guidelines are not conflicting and are rooted in a trauma-informed, systems approach.

● “We run into a lot of internal conflicts about what is allowed or not in SNAP Ed. The allowed curricula are solely around the DGAs and are through the lens of white [Eurocentric] healthy food and not being culturally responsive or responsive to communities and what their food systems look like. And when it comes to farm to school programming, those individuals can only work in schools with 50% of students with free or reduced lunch or more because that’s community eligibility for SNAP-Ed. There’s so many things going on in a school environment, it can be really hard to add in farm to school even when it is a SNAP-Ed approved strategy; so there are individuals who are engaging in schools in more of a direct education manner which is perpetuating a lot of cycles of trauma and whiteness.”

Culturally rooted nutrition education should be incorporated into educational goals and provided appropriate funding.

● “We need more nutrition education early in life, and to measure results in terms of influencing behavior.”

● “There’s a lack of capacity for current K-12 educators; on top of not having nutrition education in the curriculums, there’s little to no funding for nutrition educators at the state and federal levels. In many cases, it falls to individual teachers to lead discussions as an extra to base standards.”

Federal nutrition programs for senior centers, school and early childhood should enforce more flexibility in what is provided on the plate including culturally significant foods and locally grown and raised foods.

● “Even though USDA says they will support Tribal foods in meals, some states are great about it and other states are nit picking what is or isn’t an allowed traditional food. This means certain things might have to be donated or not qualify as part of a reimbursable meal.”

Determine and incorporate different measures of personal and community health to get beyond BMI.

● “Our organization’s goal is to get a school food garden into every school in Delaware. I think a good starting point to promoting nutrition and physical activity is addressing how diverse bodies are themselves.”

● “HHS and USDA should jointly examine the role of nutrition in public health outcomes, such as maternal morbidity and mortality.”

Utilize USDA’s existing models of community-led research and advancement within the National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA) to inform ways that nutrition and health research can equitably engage communities.

Policymakers and government officials must create more pathways for state and federal agencies to listen to local needs. The burden to be heard shouldn’t lie solely with the community.

Policymaking spaces must feature lived experiences from program recipients, especially people of color. The effort to engage the public in White House Conference planning is a good first step.

● “Most federal opportunities for input reward people with computer skills and grant writing instead of growers or program participants.”

● “These opportunities need to be created by those looking for this information instead of placing the burden on families to step forward.”

● “We need outreach in the broadest terms in communities and across states and tribal communities to learn from families, immigrant and refugee individuals and families, and sovereign communities, about their specific nutrition needs and priorities.”

● “Culturally responsive perspectives could be considered by convening student and family representatives in social settings where food is served: senior centers, schools, early care centers, and food pantries.”

● “It's been really interesting to see the effort being pushed out to gather feedback for this specific conference. I have never seen that level of soliciting interest for all the policy initiatives that come out on a regular basis. Usually the only thing is a request for public comment, which lots of people don't even hear about or have the capacity to respond to. I know it isn't going to be realistic to do this all the time, but it would be nice to have more opportunities like this to solicit information from people who will actually be impacted.”

Recognize that state and local governments vary widely in their ability to administer programs with limited administrative funding and differing standards or guidelines.

Identify sources for the administrative costs of seeking federal funding.

● “We have seen the infrastructure on school and producer side be a large issue in our state. When programs like Local Food Purchase Assistance come through and don't allow infrastructure or training or Local Food for Schools that doesn't allow human infrastructure, they are not very useful. Our agency wanted to leave LFS on the table because there were no allowable administrative costs and many of our producers didn't understand the point of LFPA because they didn't believe the government was being responsive to their needs.”

Coordinate outreach and guidance on funding sources to make it easier for state and local actors to understand.

● “[Federal programs as they come down to the state agency and local level] are not working together. They compete for time and resources at the state and local level and don't seem aligned around a central theme, question or outcome.”

● “One of our big problems is that we leave a lot of money on the table, especially around some of the feeding programs like the fresh fruits and vegetables program. This is mainly due to poor execution on behalf of the department in getting information out to the schools so that they can participate. We need more all-around support for staffing and people power.”

● Our [state Department of Education] has been open to working with community partners. Community involvement has and will always work. As long as locals can contribute their voice and aspects of their culture it creates necessary and positive change.”

Consider allowing entities other than state agencies to receive funds if the state doesn’t apply.

● “Our state’s Department of Agriculture did not want to participate in Local Food Purchase Assistance. Since it had to be a state agency, there was nothing the nonprofits pushing for our participation could do.”

Leverage school wellness policies to embrace a broader understanding of health, and opportunity to start conversations about student culture.

Address inadequate or inconsistent processes data collection by state agencies.

● “WIC sign up is currently different in all counties of our state, and many are not managing effectively. It has been difficult to impossible to connect families to that resource as a means of supplementing food budgets and supporting local growers.”

● “Missing and incongruent data from state to state has made it difficult to really measure the impact of our Farm to Early Care and Education programs.”

Communities will have more power over their own diet and health when they are empowered with economic equality and equal access to USDA supports to grow their own food and participate in a more decentralized food system.

Federal policies should reflect more support for community-led projects around food sovereignty and more community ownership over food systems.

● “Our state imports 90% of our food, even though we sit on some of the most fertile land in America. There’s no incentive to transition out of grain production into specialty crops; that could be transformational here. Infrastructure for this barely exists in our state.”

Additional Perspectives

“We need infrastructure, more regional food systems, and actually being able to provide local food to schools. I find that is the biggest hurdle here in Lexington, Kentucky; it’s something we saw all during the pandemic, we saw with the Farmers to Families Food Box program that our boxes were coming from Florida and that is something that made absolutely no sense. Our organization had the contacts to be able to receive these food boxes and also work with local farmers to purchase directly from them to supplement what was in the food boxes. And I find that a lot of times, USDA makes it very inaccessible for smaller farmers to be able to participate in selling to the commodity programs and that is a big thing that needs to change.

“We have to invest in individuals and institutions. I started off as just a home-school mom who connected with her community to find out what the need was. As my experience grew, I had more opportunities to be put into leadership positions. Someone trusted me enough to give me these opportunities, and my other organizational co-director and I just kind of hit the ground running. We had already formed relationships with community members and started investing in our communities. Farmers could trust and talk to us, we weren’t just sending mail surveys but showing up on their farms, showing that we are willing to invest in them. It’s crucial to invest in individuals. Invest in the people who can make the change happen, give them the necessary salaries to enable them to do so. Ask, who are the people who could use some economic empowerment?”

“In June 2020, our food hub got funding to buy from farmers who weren’t able to sell at the local farmers markets. We bought at market prices and donated to emergency food organizations; this legislative session they got funding from the state of Minnesota to continue funding that program. This is specifically for emerging farmers in the Twin Cities metro to support underserved and BIPOC farmers, trying to get fresh food into the emergency food pipeline. The program is intentionally a very low barrier of entry for the farmers to participate in – the program provided packaging which is a huge barrier to entry, and provided technical assistance to help growers have healthy harvests.”

Additional Immediate Strategies

Provide flexibility within current reimbursement levels.

“Cash in lieu of commodities as an option for school meals – let’s spend all the money on food instead of trucking from huge manufacturers.”

Enforce transparency to empower purchasers.

“We should require distributors to provide basic provenance information to purchasers to support school districts in navigating local purchases.”

Reduce reporting burden on CACFP providers.

Examine micro-purchase rules in CACFP.

“CACFP Micro-Purchase rules limit consistent purchases from one source, which makes it difficult for small ECE providers to establish long-term purchasing relationships with small farmers in their communities.”

Provide realistic reimbursement levels.

“We need increased reimbursement in areas serving Tribal areas, Hawaii, and Alaska; food is really expensive and infrastructure is poor and it’s impossible for producers to compete with federal commodity distribution.”

Pursue Tribal self-determination in federal programs.

“We’re hoping to see an expansion of Tribal self determination expansion projects to school meals and hoping to expand to all federal nutrition programs.”

At the Heart of GroMoreGood Hydroponics: What’s growing in the 25 participating schools?

NFSN Staff
June 8, 2022

In 2019, the National Farm to School Network (NFSN), the Scotts-Miracle Gro Foundation and Hawthorne Gardening company launched the second iteration of the GroMoreGood™ Hydroponics Garden Project. This second round of the project engaged 25 school communities across the country. Coupled with this launch was the release of the curriculum developed in partnership with KidsGardening entitled, Discovering Through Hydroponics. The project not only aimed to spark a passion for gardening and increase experiential learning for students, it also sought to equip teachers and school staff with tools and resources necessary to integrate food and nutrition education in daily classroom activities. 

The pandemic has shown the critical role of teachers and school staff members in fostering nourishing and community-driven school environments. This project supported the seamless integration of these food education concepts into the classroom and collaborated with teachers and school staff throughout the process. Students are able to complete core academic requirements through engaging activities like planting, harvesting, tasting and even preparing delicious salads, smoothies and a variety of other snacks.

Left to Right: Prairie City School, Dilley Elementary (Top), Klamath County School District (Bottom), Modest Family Solutions, RCMA Wimauma

Trisha Bautista Larson, Program Manager at NFSN, had the wonderful opportunity of visiting two GroMoreGood project school sites in Arizona during Teacher’s Appreciation Week. When asked what she enjoyed the most about having a hydroponics system in the classroom – Ms. Crystal Gutierrez – teacher at Frank Borman Elementary School in Phoenix, Arizona said, “the hydroponics program really helped create a sense of culture, responsibility, care and excitement in the classroom.” Ms. Gutierrez expressed how much she loved teaching and getting students involved. Her students help with watering, investigating, and writing about the peppers and tomatoes currently growing in their hydroponic system. 

Mr. Dustin Hancock from St. David Unified School District in St. David, Arizona shared that the hydroponics kit has been “a great success supplying lettuce and tomatoes to both the culinary program and cafeteria which supports the K-12 school district.” Mr. Hancock expanded to note that other teachers have also been engaged with their hydroponics and have been excited to cultivate their school garden – so much so that their culinary teacher applied to receive funding from the Arizona Department of Education’s Donors Choose grant to purchase four more smaller hydroponics systems for their school. 

Ms. Crystal Gutierrez, Frank Borman Elementary; Mr. Dustin Hancock, St. David Unified School District

During May’s Peer Learning Session - a virtual space dedicated for school participants to share updates and connect with one another about their hydroponics - teachers and staff expressed their appreciation and excitement for participating in the project. Many shared how adults in the school community are also engaged in using the hydroponics system. At Fairfield Elementary in Eugene, Oregon, Ms. Talor Kirk discussed that teachers were visiting her classroom to make themselves lunch with the unit’s leafy greens. Moreover, roughly 650 students were engaged in the hydroponics project at Bancroft Elementary School in Washington. Students enjoyed tasting their vibrant salad greens and tomatoes as part of learning about the school garden. The Peer Learning Session was a great opportunity to pause and share with each other the amazing learnings that they each have experienced as part of the GroMoreGood Hydroponics project.

“It’s never too soon to develop a love of gardening and reap its many mental, physical, emotional and social benefits,” said Katherine Dickens, manager of corporate social responsibility at the Scotts Miracle-Gro Company. “We’re grateful that NFSN and the second iteration of the GroMoreGood Hydroponics project provides elementary-age students the opportunity to learn valuable lessons that can help them for years to come.” 

NFSN is thrilled to continue to connect with school participants and support efforts towards sustainability as well as maintain community-level conversations around hydroponics systems and gardening in the classroom.