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October 20, 2010

School yard gardens: forbidden fruit


White House vegetable garden


Monica Eng of the Chicago Tribune describes the garden bounty grown by Chicago public school children, and reports that school system rules -- which do not apply to the commercial food suppliers -- prohibit any of that food from making it into the school cafeteria.

Any fresh food served in school cafeterias there must meet specific and certifiable growing practices that are pretty strict -- but which do not apply to food purchased from contracted suppliers.

As a result, most of the produce the kids grow is sold or given away.

In Chicago and elsewhere in the country, school vegetable gardens are not getting the quick acceptance you might expect.

Objections range from cultural --  gardening sends the wrong message to minority students whose parents might be farm workers or whose ancestors might have been slaves -- to educational -- time is better spent on math and reading.

I recognize the safety issues here -- as well as the liability issues. But with a first lady committed to reducing childhood obesity and setting an example by growing her own vegetables, school officials everywhere should find a way to bring the produce their children grow into the lunchroom.


Posted by Susan Reimer at 12:40 PM | | Comments (6)
Categories: Garden news


Over in Montgomery County, MD, we've been fighting a ban in the public schools on putting in vegetable gardens at all. Civic organizations, Master Gardeners, and the Parks Dept. have been countering the issues raised about liability and maintenance, and we hope for a positive outcome. Details at who are leading the effort. Thanks for bringing up this issue! I do think if children grow produce they should get to eat it.

There is only one reason that schools would be resistant to free, organic produce and that is their unholy allegiance to large agri-business companies like Monsanto. Monsanto has infiltrated virtually every level of government assuring politicians that regardless of what dire effects genetically modified products and chemicals have on the populous they'll keep the money flowing to the bureaucrats.

I can understand the strict guidelines for cafeteria food, but the cultural and educational objections? I don't get. Many garden professionals like, designers, growers, retailers, architects, etc, use math and reading in their profession. To me it seems a great way to apply what you learn in school, if teachers are making that connection of course.

I think both restrictions are absurd. Yes you are showing kids that they can grow their own food, but then you are telling them that it's not good for consumption. Instead eat this crap. Have you seen most school lunches?

The cultural objections are even more ridiculous. Growing, harvesting and producing food is far from a low level job. It's a necessity for us humans to live. You know what kind of job isn't necessary for humans to live....look around there are plenty of them.

The school year is built around the agricultural system, so that kids could have off for the summer to help harvest crops.

We have become so far disconnected from our food source. It's ridiculous.

Growing food is very educational. It encompasses science (growth cycle, difference between healthy and unhealthy food), social-studies (Where does food come from?, Place of agriculture in our society, the way different cultures prepare different types of food), Math (measuring plant growth, measuring ingredients when cooking) and reading/ writing/technology (researching how plants will grow best/ which plants they might want for the garden and how to care for them and then writing about what they have learned both in their research and through observation.) And even in that vein there are tons of things they can do to incorporate writing into this activity. This shows yet again how many people not only have no imagination, but also have no idea what they are talking about.

As for not wanting to do it for cultural reasons, really? What kind of idiots actually think that planting some greenbeans is going to insult people because it will remind them of slave days. Yet another example of how the PC police are idiots.

gardening sends the wrong message to minority students whose parents might be farm workers or whose ancestors might have been slaves

Seriously???? Well my goodness, then why allow them to eat vegetables at all, oh the horror! Better they should eat overly processed foods and compromise their health than offend someone? Who thinks this stuff up? I think their free time would be better spent...oh, I don't know...working in a school or community garden??

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About Susan Reimer
Susan Reimer has spent 16 years writing about raising kids - among other topics - in her column for The Baltimore Sun. And every time son Joseph or daughter Jessie passed another milestone - driver's license, college, wedding or a move to a new military duty station - she has planted another garden. Now she will be writing about those gardens - and yours - here on Garden Variety.

Susan isn't an expert gardener, but she wasn't an expert mother, either. Both - the kids and the gardens - seem to be doing well in spite of her.

She lives in Annapolis with her husband, Gary Mihoces, who loves to cut his grass but has noticed that there seems to be less of it every time the kids pass another milestone.

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