For the second year in a row The Staten Island Partnership for Community Wellness (SIPCW) and the New York City Department of Education joined forces to promote healthy eating and a love of gardening among school children throughout the borough by targeting a key audience – educators. The Second Annual School Garden Summit, which was held on March 17 at the Michael J. Petrides School, provided educators and administrators with the knowledge to start, expand, and sustain a school garden.
“It’s all about inspiring schools to plant gardens; plant vegetable gardens,” said Jody Stoll, project manager at SIPCW. “This is all about having kids become healthier through eating healthier. And you know what? Kids will eat what they grow.”
The 2017 School Garden Summit boasted twice as many participants as the 2016 Garden Summit, with over 120 principals, teachers, and school faculty members attending from 30 schools. Interactive sessions focused on using gardens to enhance STEAM (science, technology, engineering, arts and mathematics) curriculum, acquiring grants and resources, learning garden management basics, and participating in healthy food demonstrations.
In addition to the breakout sessions, attendees heard students from P.S. 45, P.S. 46, P.S. 57, and P.S. 80 present the projects they’ve worked on to improve health and wellness in their schools. In an inspiring address, keynote speaker Kathy Soll, of Teens for Food Justice, spoke to attendees about the role that young people can play in combatting food insecurity and poor nutrition. Giveaways included seeds and planting calendars to guide schools on when to plant and harvest.
“I think people really got to learn a lot and learn how to bring things back to their own schools,” said Petrides Principal Joanne Buckheit, who graciously hosted the event. “They got to see what’s happening in other schools – to see how excited kids could be about this work.”
The Staten Island School Garden Summit is a program of the Staten Island Child Wellness Initiative. Led by SIPCW, the Child Wellness Initiative aims to improve child health and wellness on Staten Island by addressing access and opportunities for active living, availability and affordability of fresh healthy food, and community-wide partnerships that shape children’s home, school, recreational, and healthcare environments.
Studies show that school gardens help children learn to love healthy food. Children who understand how to grow their own food tend to eat more fruits and vegetables. School gardens help instill healthy habits in kids that can affect them for a lifetime.
“We think we’ve found a secret bullet here to fight childhood obesity,” said Stoll.