The Education Fund – Food Forests for Schools
How do you get elementary school students to eat fresh, healthy foods and increase their science scores?
The Education Fund’s Food Forests for Schools Initiative uses edible gardens and Food Forests as outdoor learning laboratories in Miami-Dade County’s public elementary schools to instill in children the desire to eat nutritious food while learning to care for the environment. Students learn curriculum through hands-on production of Food Forests and edible gardens, increasing their science scores by 84%. Through Food Forests for Schools, students develop a deeper understanding of the connection between health and their environment.
The initiative has grown to now involve more than 32,000+ students within 51 Miami-Dade County Public Schools. Elementary school teachers have abundant harvests of fresh, nutritious greens ready to share throughout the year. Through weekly harvests, over 74,000+ bags of fresh, vitamin-packed produce has gone home with students, and 50% of parents surveyed responded that they are serving healthier meals at home.
Through collaboration with Miami Dade’s Department of Food & Nutrition, school-grown produce has also been incorporated into cafeteria meals over 3,000 times! In 2018, Growing Roots joined the effort by supporting Food Forests at both North Miami and Phyllis Ruth Miller Elementary Schools.
“My students are such connaisseurs that they comment on each other’s lunch choice. They will often bring to my attention that they are eating healthy. One of them recently explained that she was having a healthy snack because the label said whole grains.”
Phyllis Ruth Miller Elementary
North Miami Elementary was one of The Education Fund’s first adapters of Food Forests for Schools. Many students and families originated from all over the Caribbean and did not have access to the greens and fruits of their home countries. Their Food Forest fills a gap by providing free access to fresh produce much needed in the community. With a free and reduced lunch population of 98%, the school is fulfilling a nutritional need as well as providing support to families.
“When we dug out the boniato (Caribbean sweet potato), it was very exciting. As the students were digging, whenever they found one they would scream “I found one,” and the whole group would run over to see. That day we dug out 32 boniatos.”
North Miami Elementary
Phyllis Ruth Miller Elementary has incorporated its Food Forest into every aspect of the school day. It takes over the school’s central courtyard and all day long one can see students walking or skipping through the pathways.
Teachers regularly hold classes on tables set up as an outdoor classroom shaded by the canopy of papaya, citrus, and peach trees. As students complete their classwork, the smells of the Food Forest relax and open their minds to new ideas. Tasty leaves beckon to be eaten as a snack and the students observe and learn without trying.
“Students love going to the Food Forest, one student told me it relaxes him when he works in the garden. It makes his thinking and nerves go slower, and he can concentrate better when he goes back to the room.”
Phyllis Ruth Miller Elementary
Growing Roots is proud to support the work of The Education Fund, planting the seeds for our students to grow and succeed!