Students at Crawfordsville’s Meredith Nicholson Elementary have learned to grow fruits and vegetables in the school garden for nearly a decade. This year, students can enjoy the fruits of their labor in the school cafeteria for the first time.
The Nicholson garden sits just behind the school, close enough for students to visit for lessons. They learn about agriculture all year, and plant seeds in the spring. Three days a week in the summer, students and families tend to various plants, including carrots, pumpkins and tomatoes. As fall approaches, they harvest.
Previously, all food was donated. But this year, select veggies are included in the lunchtime salad bar. Principal Jennifer Coyle says it won’t reap financial savings for the school, but students get excited to eat things they helped grow.
“They think carrots come in a little bag, pre-cut and washed in a little bag, the bite-sized carrots,” Coyle says, “but to see this, it opens a lot of eyes.”
And students at the elementary school aren’t afraid to dig in.
“When I was here, I picked the cherry tomatoes and I ate them,” Lexi Cox says.
“I helped dig all the stuff over there and put some newspaper in,” Laken Suitors says. She says the newspaper prevents weeds.
“I did help plant some rainbow carrots that my mom bought,” Anna Boyd says.
Coyle asked student Armando Munoz Nielson who will be eating the vegetables he collected.
“My whole family,” he says.
All four students are third graders at Nicholson, and took part in the summer program with their parents this year. The school only houses second and third graders, and kids at other local campuses don’t visit the garden during class. But Coyle says other families can still get involved in the summer program.
“I know we have people in the neighborhood who come and just take vegetables, and it’s absolutely fine. We want them to be used,” Coyle says.
Coyle says there aren’t any plans currently to expand the program to other schools, though she’d like to see it happen.