IMG_2403Grow to Learn: Citywide School Gardens Initiative

Across the City, we are working hard to help gardens bloom at each of the 1,700 public schools, so all of our youngest neighbors have the chance to dig in, learn in a hands-on and exciting way, and build positive attitudes towards healthy food. Together with the Mayor’s Fund to Advance NYC, the NYC Department of Education, and NYC Department of Parks’ GreenThumb Division, we ensure that NYC schools have access to garden mini-grants, materials, and support needed to start, maintain, and expand successful learning garden programs. By helping learning gardens grow across the five boroughs, Grow to Learn increases environmental awareness and healthy food attitudes among NYC’s 1.1 million students while ultimately having positive impacts on current and future consumption behaviors, leading to healthier kids, communities, and planet.

Teachers reported the rewarding experience of watching their students munch with delight on raspberries for the first time, never before on their plates because of cost and lack of availability. At the High School for Public Service, the school garden coordinator reported that garden activities sparked their high schoolers to think critically and holistically about complex issues surrounding food security, food justice, media awareness, nutrition, and fair-trade laws, culminating in action to improve their own food choices. Teacher Adam Schwartz reports: “Doubly rewarding at the end of the year when they decide to make some change in theirlife to improve their food system: students have chosen anything from eating breakfast in the morning so they are better equipped for learning to eliminating soda from their diet to becoming a vegetarian, and everything in between. If the experience allows them the space to question what and how they eat affects public health and the environment, then we have met our objectives.”

It takes a village to grow a school garden. Together with our partners, we are working hard to level the playing field for children in terms of health, nutrition, experiential learning, and so much more. We believe wholeheartedly that getting outside and experiencing nature and growing food will have benefits that last a lifetime.

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We’ve made great strides towards our vision of
a garden for every NYC public school:

• 225 schools have registered with Grow to Learn, reaching 55,783 students, training over 600 teachers and parents, and making the schools eligible for minigrants and free resources;
• Distributed $224,956 in mini-grants to help 138 schools start or maintain learning gardens reaching 1,664 teachers and 37,509 students;
• 63 schools taste what they grow with Garden to Café events;
• Introduced over 650 NYC educators to Grow to Learn through trainings offered by the Department of Education’s Sustainability Initiative;
• Delivered over 5,600 cubic feet of soil, compost, or mulch and 300 pieces of lumber to schools; and,
• Provided direct support to help gardens grow in 49 schools in priority communities suffering from the highest rates of childhood obesity and diet related illness in NYC.

Click HERE to learn more about Grow to Learn NYC.

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