Today, GrowNYC and the Mayor's Fund to Advance New York City announced $59,044 in mini-grant funding awarded to 36 New York City public and charter schools looking to build, maintain, or expand their garden programs. Forty-one percent of grant funds distributed are supporting schools located in District Public Health Office zones, areas designated by The NYC Department of Health and Mental Hygiene (DOHMH) as experiencing the highest rates of diet-related illness: the South Bronx, Central Brooklyn and parts of Harlem.
These mini-grants, in amounts up to $2,000, are part of Grow to Learn: Citywide School Gardens Initiative. As part of the initiative, schools can not only apply for a mini-grant, they can register their garden and become eligible to receive materials and expert advice from GreenThumb, the community garden division of the NYC Department of Parks and Recreation.
"Thanks to support from Bank of America and the Doris Duke Charitable Foundation, we were able to help 36 schools this round -- who would not otherwise have the resources to do so -- break ground on new gardens or expand or spruce up existing gardens. Now our youngest residents living in communities disproportionately affected by high rates of obesity and diabetes will get outside, get active, grow, and taste -- in some cases for the first time -- a strawberry or a tomato they grow themselves," said GrowNYC executive director Marcel Van Ooyen.
Studies demonstrate that gardens connect children to the natural world, provide hands-on learning opportunities, instill environmental stewardship, transform children's food attitudes and habits, and increase physical activity. While New York City's public education system includes about 1,600 schools serving 1.1 million students, there are fewer than 400 school gardens. In just one year, Grow to Learn is proud to have fostered a 15 percent increase in school gardens across the city.
School garden programs come in many sizes, shapes, and locations, including classrooms, schoolyards, and partnerships with urban farms or community gardens, all of which are eligible to apply.
For example, PS 146 in East Harlem will use their Grow to Learn Mini-Grant to expand their garden and purchase tools for kids, stepping stones, indoor growing lights, and seed starts so students can see the entire plant cycle. They'll also send some of their teachers to the New York Botanical Gareden for professional development so they can better use the garden as an extension of the classrooms, fostering conversations across all grade levels to occur as students make connections around food. The cafeteria plans to incorporate vegetables and herbs grown into meals for students.
"We are excited to embark on the edible garden experience through our Grow to Learn grant. Students here have been learning about healthy foods and healthy choices for a few years now and it is exciting that they will finally be able to take part in growing their own food. As a culture we have become far removed from what food is and where it comes from that we are excited to be involved in a program teaches to the whole child in an effort to brings whole foods into the classrooms and bodies of our students who are the future of the world," said Beth Reed, PS 146 wellness coordinator.
"The Doris Duke Charitable Foundation is thrilled to support the installation of food gardens at schools in New York City neighborhoods that are disproportionately affected by high rates of nutrition-related chronic diseases," said Andrew Bowman, program director for the foundation's Environment Program. "These gardens will provide students with hands-on experience that could fundamentally change their relationship with food."
Schools can go to www.nyc.gov/growtolearn (or www.growtolearn.org) to access information on how to plan a garden, register a garden, ask technical gardening questions, apply for a mini-grant, connect with educational resources, and get inspired by success stories.
Grow to Learn Mini-Grant Recipients
P.S./ M.S. 278
P.S. 48 H.S.
Harlem Renaissance H.S.
The Urban Assembly School for Green Careers
P.S.127 - The McKinley Park School
H.S. Boys and Girls
Abraham Lincoln High School
Academy for Environmental Leadership
Automotive High School
H.S. World Academy for Total Community Health
M.S. Mott Hall IV/K522
M.S. Urban Assembly Institute of Math
H.S. Robert F. Kennedy Community
The Renaissance Charter School
P.S. 50 Talfourd Lawn
P.S. 861 School of Civic Leadership
P.S. 80 - Michael J. Petrides