EagleTribune.com, North Andover, MA

June 28, 2013

Lawrence school gets $10K to grow garden program

By Yadira Betances

---- — LAWRENCE — Students at Lawrence Family Development Charter School will learn about nutrition in the classroom and the school yard, then taste it in the cafeteria.

That is all thanks to a $10,000 grant the school received through the Healthy School Food Champions program, presented by the Harvard Pilgrim Health Care Foundation in partnership with the Massachusetts Department of Education and Mass in Motion. Money from the grant will also be used in the four-week Summer School program and this fall in an after-school program.

“As a school, we put together the concept of using raised bed (gardens) to learn Earth science and grow vegetables that we can use in our food service programs so the kids can learn about healthy eating,” said the school’s Superintendent/Executive Director Ralph Carrero.

Lawrence Family Development currently has a 225-square-foot raised bed at its Lower School campus at 34 West St., which will be expanded.

“The idea is that each class will have a raised bed so students can learn how a vegetable grows, about irrigation, and eat the produce. It’s a very holistic approach,” he said.

Students at Lawrence Family Development will begin to reap the benefits of the grant in the fall when the school’s food service staff gets training for cooking more nutritious meals with fresh produce.

In addition, families of students and school volunteers will get space to grow produce and make suggestions for the school’s meal program. Other ideas include sponsoring a farmer’s market so parents can take vegetables home, Carrero said.

“This is an excellent concept for kids to eat healthier, learn about science and engage parents in a way they feel good about giving back,” Carrero said.

He added that the school has also partnered with Groundwork Lawrence to teach students about healthy eating.

Lawrence Family Development is not the only school that has a garden. Groundwork Lawrence has built gardens all over the city at many schools

“At school, it’s hands-on learning with science, engineering and math integrated into the curriculum as they exercise, breathing fresh air instead of just sitting behind a desk,” said Groundwork Lawrence executive director Heather McMann.

The organization has helped build schoolyard gardens at Up Academy (Leonard) Middle School, Arlington, Leahy, Rollins, Bruce, South Lawrence East, Wetherbee and Lawrence High. Groundwork Lawrence has supported the garden over the years, but it is now managed by the high school.

The Guillemette School also has a garden, which was not built by Groundwork Lawrence, but the organization plans to partner with the school to maintain and develop it.

Groundwork Lawrence also has community gardens at Union and Mechanic streets, Dr. Nina Scarito Park on Brook Street, Manchester Street, Cronin Park, Giuffrida Place, Cross and Cedar streets, Spruce and Myrtle streets and Costello Park.