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School Gardens – they’re about more than just growing food!

by Rebecca Haber

When I’m not working at DASH, I spend a lot of time with vegetables – growing them, picking them, pickling them, cooking them, eating them, sharing them. This intimate relationship with vegetable growing and eating is relatively new to me – I joined a community garden three years ago with no previous gardening experience. Around the same time I started a relationship with a vegetable farmer. The result: the world of produce has expanded before my eyes.

Red Cabbage

I now eat fruits and vegetables that I had never heard of before. Do you know what a quince is? Nettles? Kohlrabi? Items I’d only seen on grocery store shelves, like brussel sprouts (bottom picture), cabbage (picture on right), artichokes, and hazelnuts (picture on left), I have now seen growing on plants in the garden. I liken my new perspective on vegetables to DASH’s comprehensive, holistic approach to school health. A vegetable is not just the end product that you eat – it’s the soil it grows in, the plant it grows on, the care and nutrients it is given, and of course the food it produces.

Hazelnuts on a TreeAnalogies aside, I love all that I have recently learned about gardening. The value of growing food extends not only to healthy eating, but also to a new perspective on our environment and food system. This is why I am so excited about the healthy eating, gardening, and agricultural programs and resources currently available to students and teachers in BC. DASH partners with a number of healthy eating organizations and initiatives to coordinate actions in BC schools. Check out the websites of Farm to School and the BC School Fruit and Vegetable Nutritional Program, two of our partners who work to connect students to local food production. Through the Healthy Schools Network, we’ve also seen student-led initiatives in growing and cooking food from their own school gardens. I hope students with these opportunities can experience the wonder of watching a tiny seed grow and think bigger about where their food comes from.

Brussel Sprouts Plant

It’s harvest season in BC. Have you spotted any new or exciting veggies or fruit at your local store, farm stand, or in your garden? Are there school gardening programs we should know about? Tell us about them.

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