For years now St. Joseph Community School staff and students have been growing and harvesting their garden and enjoying the fruits of their labor in the classroom and in the cafeteria.
The idea of a school garden came from the Northeast Iowa Food and Fitness Initiative and St. Joe’s teachers Amy Kloberdanz and Susie Klunder volunteered to take part on the wellness team and began planting a garden in 2010.
The seeds the students use for planting are donated from Seed Savers Exchange, who work with the initiative group.
The staff and students plant seeds in the garden located behind the hospital and in four raised beds by the school during the spring and then depend on families that volunteer to take care of the garden on a weekly basis during the summer.
Kloberdanz said the kids weed, pick and tend to the garden about once a week.
The produce from the garden is used in school lunches as well as used on the cooking cart that the St. Joe’s teachers are encouraged to use in their classrooms with their students.
Excess food is also donated to the Chickasaw County Food Pantry and even given to the kids for a snack some days.
After picking the produce the students weigh and record. Last year the students collected 2,000 pounds of produce including tomatoes, peppers, watermelon, cantaloupe, onions, radishes, lettuce, potatoes and much more.
Klunder and Kloberdanz said the students are good about trying different things grown and picked from the garden.
The garden helps teach the kids healthy eating habits and options and it familiarizes them with different kinds of food.
Many of the students have also never had or worked in a garden before and it helped them learn where the food comes from.
To help with the wellness program the teachers had students volunteer to be on a youth wellness team that help plan during school and after school wellness activities. They also serve as ‘cafeteria coaches’ who sit with the younger students and encourage them to try new things.
Source: Brittany Bierle, New Hampton Tribune, 9/16/2014.