AUSTIN (KXAN) – Over the past nine months, around 100 first-graders at IDEA Rundberg in north Austin have got their hands dirty.
That’s because the school launched its first student farm in central Texas earlier this year. Those behind the program said the goal was to teach students about sustainability while giving them access to healthier food options.
“This area has been historically underserved, so we’re really giving these kids a chance to explore, to learn, to eat, to be curious,” said Hayley Wood, the school’s farmer.
Those at IDEA Rundberg say they are seeing something similar happening in their school. Grade 1 students not only learn how to care for their own plants, but they are also able to try out different fruits and vegetables. Students like Stéphanie Rodriguez, who discovered that she was not a fan of radishes.
Earlier this year, a University of Texas study found that school gardens are linked to children eating more vegetables. The study looked at 16 elementary schools in central Texas with a specific focus on those with a high percentage of students participating in the free and discounted lunch program. They wanted to know how nutrition programs would affect low income groups. One of the things they found was that students who participated in these programs ate, on average, half a serving of more vegetables per day than before participating in a program.
“They’re like spicy,” said the first-grader.
“A lot of my students didn’t know what a radish was, so we learned what it was,” said Shyniece Gregory, a first grade science and social science teacher at the school. “They don’t know what kale is, they don’t know what it tastes like, so just give them this opportunity that they maybe haven’t had in another school or home experience just to taste these things. ”
To date, students in the program have grown 600 pounds of produce which all end up in school meals.
“If we don’t plant plants, we can’t have lunch, so we have to plant them in order to have lunch,” Rodriguez said.
For Wood, she hopes the farm will provide a healthier future for her students and their families.
“Many families will not be able to buy these types of vegetables in the store, they may not even be in the store, and so for their children to be exposed to them, it will at least be a small change in the diet of the store. ‘a family,’ Wood said.
Right now, they grow broccoli, cauliflower, beets, carrots, radishes, kale, and some herbs.
One of the largest school districts in our area, Austin ISD also offers an agriculture program at four high schools in the area as well as certification options for students interested in the career path.