Middle School Garden to Feed Students?
Community volunteers partner with parents, faculty, students and business to create garden at Barrington Middle School.
It began as a small seed of an idea. And as seeds do, the idea germinated and grew.
Now the founders of the Barrington Middle School "garden project" are hoping that there will be people in the community who would like to tend to the project, and to the garden itself.
Barbara Cohen is the district manager for Chartwells School Dining Services, which provides dining services at the middle school.
Five years ago, Cohen initiated a "Locally Grown" program, whereby Chartwells tries to purchase foods wherever possible from local farms that are Good Agricultural Practices (GAP) certified. This means the farms use safe growing and handling practices, which Cohen said is crucial to the success of a school garden that intends on growing food for use by Chartwells and eaten by the students.
"We'd like to be able to use produce from the garden as part of the school lunch program," said Cohen. "Which means there are safety considerations."
Among those safety considerations are ensuring that plants in the proposed garden are not fertilized with animal manure, and that the plants are harvested and utilized following Department of Health regulations.
For Carole Toselli, who works with school districts throughout the state as a Wellness Coordinator with the nonprofit agency, Kids First, safety is just one of the things she needs to consider.
Tosellis's youngest child will be a senior at Barrington High School next year, but as the coordinator of the garden team, she is committed to getting the middle school garden up and running in the hopes that it will become self-sustaining -- a valuable source of nutrition and wellness for all the students who attend the school in future years.
Michelle Turgeon is a landscape architect and the mother of a 2-year-old daughter. She has been volunteering on the garden team helping to transcribe ideas onto paper. And she is working on plans for the herb garden the team plans to start within the next couple of weeks, as well as a longer-term vision for the middle school courtyard, where the garden will be planted.
"Time is precious, but volunteering in a project like this is just as valuable," said Turgeon, who views the project as "much more than just a garden."
"It will serve as a kitchen classroom and help shape students' views of what they put in their body and inform them of where food comes from," she said.
"Although, my daughter is only two, I hope that by the time she reaches middle school this program will be well on its way," said Turgeon.
For Toselli, volunteers like Turgeon are crucial to ensuring the long-term sustainability of the garden. She said that she'd particularly like to see involvement within the community from families of younger children. Their involvement will continue to grow the garden and be supported as those children reach their middle school years.
The garden team had originally planned to break ground with a larger scale garden this summer. But they decided at a design charette last week to begin with the herb garden.
Summer-school students aided by teacher Erika Koohy will be planting the herbs, along with sunflowers and pumpkins, as part of their curriculum on July 11.
Toselli said she hopes that when parents see the efforts from summer at the Middle School Open House in September, they'll want to become more involved in the process.
Toselli is applying for grant funding from The Home Depot, and is hoping to apply for funding from the Barrington Education Foundation so the garden team can purchase a greenhouse to extend the growing season and offer a big educational advantages for the students.
Toselli invited anyone who is interested in volunteering in the garden to contact her by telephone at 401-330-8401, or by email at email@example.com