gtl 1Grow to Learn: Citywide School Gardens Initiative

Grow to Learn NYC’s vision is a garden for every NYC public and charter school. With 350 schools registered, Grow to Learn has quickly established itself as NYC’s one-stop-shop for public school teachers to access the funding, garden materials, tools and training needed for gardens to bloom and NYC students to dig in, get active, connect to nature, and start building more positive attitudes towards healthy food.

A partnership between GrowNYC and seven City agencies including The Departments of Education and Parks and the Mayor’s Fund to Advance NYC is key to the rapid success by removing roadblocks that previously thwarted school garden creation and sustainment. Grow to Learn gives mini-grants to public and charter schools to help start or expand gardening programs, provides hands-on advice and support in underserved communities, identifies best practices, optimizes teacher training opportunities, and pools resources.

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Grow to Learn has distributed $311k in garden mini-grants to 175 schools, $143k of which are helping gardens to grow in 67 schools in communities identified by the Department of Public Health to suffer the highest rates of diet- and environment-related diseases. GrowNYC is an active presence on the school campus, providing garden planning and growing support to help learning gardens bloom in these priority neighborhoods.

In partnership with the Parks Department’s GreenThumb division, we led technical training workshops tied to garden material giveaways, training over 600 teachers in 2012-13 school year. To ensure these lessons met their full potential, we delivered over 7,000 cubic feet of compost, soil and mulch, over 500 pieces of lumber, and ample seed starting supplies. These tools, plants, and trainings give schools the skills and materials they need to really get growing.

Working with our partner the NYC Department of Education’s Office of SchoolFood, we hosted 67 Garden to Café Harvest Days wherein the SchoolFood cafeteria staff are trained to harvest and serve garden produce in the cafeteria.