Citywide School Gardens Initiative Connects Eating and Health in the Garden

Citywide School Gardens Initiative Connects Eating and Health in the Garden

June 16, 2011 (Brooklyn, NY) Today nonprofit GrowNYC and the Mayors Fund to Advance New York Cityco-founders of Grow to Learn: Citywide School Gardens Initiativewere joined by Deputy NYC Parks Commissioner Larry Scott Blackmon, Chef Michael Anthony of Gramercy Tavern and staff and families at PS 154 in Windsor Terrace to highlight the critical nutrition lessons gardens provide and kick-off a week-long promo, Dining Out for School Gardens.

Students at PS 154 were outside participating in a cooking demo with Chef Michael Anthony and Whitney Reuling, Garden to Cafe Coordinator for the Office of SchoolFood, as part of Harvest Day, where students serve up what theyve grown in the garden in their cafeteria.

PS 154 students are taking a journey with their food from seed to plate, taking advantage of all Grow to Learn has to offer. The school was recently awarded a Grow to Learn mini-grant to amend garden beds, purchase composters and lights so they can grow seeds indoors. After registering their garden on, they received donated plant materials and technical assistance from Grow to Learn Partner Green Thumb, and their Harvest Day and other nutrition curriculum comes from participating in Garden to School Caf, operated by the Office of SchoolFood, another partner in Grow to Learn.

Our students are getting a full experience, from the seeds they plant, to the sprouts they tend, to the healthy fruits and vegetables on their plates, said PS 154 Principal Sam Ortiz. Grow to Learn has pointed us to the tools we need to make this garden a reality, and, more importantly, a living classroom with lessons abounding in math, science, writing and more.

As an integral part of the citywide plan to get New Yorkers planting and enjoying the benefits of community gardens, Green Thumb is delighted to be a part of Grow to Learn, so that we can support and assist NYC students who are excited about growing food and flowers and growing their outdoor spirit and skills. From fresh air and exercise to making new friends while learning about nutrition and health lessons first-hand, this initiative is an ideal way to get our kids connected to their urban environment, said New York City Parks & Recreations Deputy Commissioner of Community Outreach, Larry Scott Blackmon.

With obesity rates in the double digits and other diet-related diseases rampant among NYC school children, these lessons are a natural part of the solution, and they couldnt come at a better time. features nutrition and health lessons and its partner Garden to School Caf Programs include seasonal harvest events and educational activities that impact the cafeteria and school lunch program.

Our SchoolFood Garden to Caf experience offers students an opportunity to engage with food on multiple levels in a supportive, educationally focused and community energized environment. Students learn first-hand growing techniques, the sources of food and positive messaging designed to encourage healthy food choices reflected in culinary demonstrations and recipe tastings that engage and inspire them to think differently about food, said Department of Education Executive Chef Jorge Leon Collazo. Garden to Caf honors the long tradition of growing food and encourages appreciation for and respect for the earth and our environment.

Local chefs are doing their part too. New York chefs are innovators and educators and many are not strangers to sharing their expertise with our youngest residents, said GrowNYC Executive Director Marcel Van Ooyen. Were so pleased that some of our finest chefs are backing this cause by participating in Dining Out for School Gardens.

Theyre also lending their culinary talents so that more school gardens can sprout: Dining Out for School Gardens is a weeklong promo running from June 24 30 where New Yorkers can visit prominent NYC restaurants (listed below) in support of school gardens. Each restaurant is donating 10% of one or more menu items in support of Grow to Learn.

PS 154 is a great example of a school taking advantage of all the initiative has to offer by bringing the food from their garden to their plates, said Jenny Sharfstein, Director of Programs at the Mayors Fund. Grow to Learn is an important part of Mayor Michael R. Bloombergs many efforts to combat obesity and help promote healthier eating and we are so thrilled by the initial successes of this public-private partnership.

While New York Citys public education system includes approximately 1,600 schools serving 1.1 million students there are fewer than 300 school gardens. Studies demonstrate that gardens connect children to the natural world, provide hands-on learning opportunities, instill environmental stewardship, transform childrens food attitudes and habits, and increase physical activity.

Schools who register with Grow to Learn become eligible to receive materials and expert advice from GreenThumb, the community garden division of the NYC Department of Parks and Recreation. 32 school gardens programs are up and running thanks to Grow to Learn mini-grants. Schools can go to and access information on how to plan a garden, ask technical gardening questions, apply for subsequent mini-grant rounds, get inspired by success stories and more.

Dining Out for School Gardens Participants (June 24 30)


Back Forty
Gotham Bar and Grill
Gramercy Tavern
The Green Table
Hung Ry
il Buco
I Trulli
M Pche
Mae Mae Cafe
Northern Spy Food Co.
Salumeria Rosi Parmacotto
Battery Park City Shake Shack
Trestle on Tenth


Rose Water
The Vanderbilt

For more info on Dining Out for School Gardens, visit:

Grow to Learn Funders and Sponsors: Grow to Learn is sponsored by Bank of America, the Doris Duke Charitable Foundation, Rachael Rays Yum-o! Organization and LG. The website was supported in large part by the Mario Batali Foundation with additional support, design and creation by digital companies MRM Worldwide and t2.0.

Steering Committee Members: Mayors Fund to Advance New York City; GrowNYC; Mayors Community Affairs Unit; Green Thumb, NYC Department of Parks & Recreation; NYC Department of Education; NYC Department of Health and Mental Hygiene; New York State Department of Agriculture & Markets

When inclement weather in the city or in the greater region affects markets, this blog post will be information central for up-to-the-minute schedule changes. 

  • Greenmarket

    Our network of farmers markets, Youthmarkets, Fresh Food Box pick-ups, and Greenmarket Co. ensures that all New Yorkers have access to the freshest, healthiest local food.

  • Recycle

    We blanket the five boroughs with resources like textile and food scrap collection, Stop 'N' Swaps, and free training to make waste reduction easy for all.

  • Garden

    We build and rejuvenate community & school gardens in all 5 boroughs, and support even more gardens through volunteer days, technical assistance, school garden grants, & more.

  • Teach

    We foster future environmental stewards by providing 60,000 children each year with programs that provide meaningful interactions with the natural environment.