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Veggies, Enthusiasm Sprout In Oregon's School Gardens

Linda Colwell

Growing food at schools is part of a new trend in Oregon. Proponents say the practice teaches kids about science and maintaining a healthy diet. Monday, the First School Garden Summit in Salem hopes to educate and expand on the movement. 

The First School Garden Summit will focus on improving cafeteria cuisine with natural and nutritious product being grown at schools. At the same time students will be engaged in an organic process learning where food comes from. Upstream Public Health Spokeswoman Kasandra Griffin says the program will make kids healthier and make them more adventurous diners.

Griffin: "The thing about school gardens is that they are where the magic happens. And if you can harvest 20 leaves of kale and put that into a mixed green salad in the cafeteria, kids will be excited about that salad because they grew part of it."

Griffin says the benefits of gardening at school reach beyond the lunchroom. She says it is a good way for kids to be actively engaging in their learning. Every school handles gardening projects differently. Coordinator Rich Sherman says one challenge is the years *growing cycle being in conflict with the school year.

Sherman: "What happens to the food? Do you water, do you weed in the winter? Do you have parent volunteers take over? There's a concern sometimes about serving foods safely in the cafeteria. Now that we have them plugged into the 'Farm to School/School Garden Network,' there's opportunities for them to get help."

Around 500 schools in Oregon are either already growing their own gardens or are interested in starting their own. Some of the presentations and information will be posted on the Oregon Department of Education's "Farm to School" web page.

copyright, 2014 KLCC

Reporting Contribution from Oregon News Service's Chris Thomas