Many schools in Nebraska have greenhouses, but many only use those greenhouses for starting perennials or growing holiday plants. Some even lie fallow. This is a missed opportunity for Nebraska’s kids.
This why we’re so excited to be awarded a grant from the Blooming Prairie Foundation for our Greenhouse-Grown Organic Entrepreneurs project! We can’t wait to partner with schools and get to work.
Our Greenhouse-Grown Organic Entrepreneurs project will assist schools in teaching valuable lessons as the kids to start, tend, and harvest plants. Greenhouses will turn into edible organic gardens that provide food for the school cafeteria, educate students about where food comes from, and teach entrepreneurial skills. This project will address several critical needs like nutrition and health, food systems, and entrepreneurship.
Bringing fresh, healthy, locally grown food into schools has tremendous benefits for kids. Across Nebraska, Over 40% of schoolchildren receive free or reduced-cost school lunches and breakfasts, and even more purchase their meals. This means that school meals provide a big (if not majority) portion of daily food intake for many Nebraskan children.
Providing organic food from school greenhouses to the cafeteria gets kids more of the healthy nutrition they need to learn, grow, and succeed. Plus, recent research has shown that farm to school programs improve children’s healthy food choices, increase their food knowledge, increase their willingness to try new foods and healthier options, and even enhance overall academic achievement. Farm to school programs prepare kids for better nutrition and a healthier relationship to food and food production for the rest of their lives.
This project takes farm to school benefits even further by involving students directly in growing their own food. Our experience has shown that when kids grow their own food, they feel a sense of ownership. They report that the food they grow tastes better. When growing their own food, they are even more likely than in a typical farm to school program to eat perhaps unfamiliar fruits and vegetables, thus increasing their healthy food intake. Healthier eating practice extends to their families as well, when kids return home asking their parents to get the same foods they grow at school.
Greenhouse-Grown Organic Entrepreneurs teaches students about where their food comes from. Living in the land of large scale agricultural commodity production, many children don’t actually know how vegetables grow. Food production is an engaging way to teach science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) topics, and provides an opportunity to educate children about the benefits of organic production for environmental and human health.
A focus on ‘organic’ production teaches about biological interactions, soil life, plant health, and nutrition for humans in a real-life context, in contrast to merely teaching the biological facts of plant life cycles and macronutrient needs. Kids who understand the food system and the importance of organic production grow up to make more sustainable choices about their foods and become better stewards of their environment. They may even grow up to work on their own organic farms, which not only supply a growing demand for organic food in our country but also revitalize the local rural communities in which they operate.
This project provides an opportunity for students to learn about entrepreneurship. Nebraska’s state entrepreneurship index shows that while Nebraska is ranked high in entrepreneurship compared to other states, it is slipping. This project will give students an early boost towards entrepreneurship with hands-on experience of growing food and following that through sale and use.
They will learn how to track the costs of food production and compare organic and conventional sales pricing. They will also learn about how food costs are handled by their school, which will teach them about nutrition requirements, public food policy, school budgets, and other aspects of civic responsibility. This project will increase student knowledge of entrepreneurial opportunities in organic agriculture and show them how they can take charge to shape their futures and their communities.
You might have noticed I haven’t mentioned any specific schools. This is because the door is wide open. Soon we’ll release the details for a proposal process for schools. We'll likely be selecting two schools. If you’re really interested and excited, however, don’t be afraid to contact us to chat about your particular school. You can either email firstname.lastname@example.org or call 402.687.2100.
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