Center for Rural Affairs launched the Greenhouse to Cafeteria program in 2015 after finding that many schools in Nebraska had greenhouses, but only used those greenhouses for starting perennials or growing holiday plants. Some were even empty - a missed opportunity for Nebraska’s kids.
The program assists schools in teaching valuable lessons as the kids to start, tend, and harvest plants. Greenhouses transform into edible organic gardens that provide food for the school cafeteria, educate students about where food comes from, and teach entrepreneurial skills.
East Butler Public Schools serves as a pilot for Center for Rural Affairs’ Greenhouse to Cafeteria program. Students grow vegetables in a greenhouse and deliver the food to the cafeteria. Instructor Shane Hennessy also serves as a resource for other schools.
At another school, a student started seeds in class and grew them at home during the summer, using knowledge they learned through the program. Her mom said the student was obsessed with caring for the seedlings. This student also took charge of the school garden tower to ensure it would produce during the year.
At East Butler, they are now considering expanding the growing area. They are looking to create a space outside the greenhouse that will serve as both a school garden and a community growing space.