There are many barriers to making healthy lifestyle choices–especially around food. Sierra Harvest is empowering Silver Springs High School students to make healthy food and lifestyle choices, while addressing typical barriers such as transportation, time, and cost that make access to fresh food challenging.
Co-Executive Director Aimee Retzler: “Silver Springs was the first high school to sign up for Sierra Harvest’s Sierra Gardens for Schools Program, which provides garden mentorship, seasonal seeds and starts, and curriculum support for schools that want to incorporate gardening into their existing curricula.” In conjunction with the newly expanded school garden, Sierra Harvest is teaching a garden/culinary class that focuses on examining each student’s personal food story. Students are learning how to plant a seed, the difference between maintaining fertility with compost vs. chemical fertilizer, and what happens to the nutritional value of wheat at varying degrees of processing. Most importantly, students are learning where their food comes from, including the food in their school lunches.
Silver Springs principal Marty Mathieson is a strong believer in the program: “At Silver Springs we know that the way to success begins with opening their heart. We focus on the good in everyone, tap into their confidence, and then the academic door opens. We polish solid fundamentals of being a ‘good person’ first and then we can learn and grow.”
The growth of the garden has allowed class participants to prepare meals with food from their garden, which currently provides them with kale, broccoli, lettuce, arugula, mizuna, mustard greens, Chinese cabbage, bok choy and more. Some of the overflow from the garden has even made it into the school lunch. Students are also learning how to cook nutritious food on a tight budget, similar to the challenges facing Theresa Ruiz, Director of Food Services for
the Nevada Joint Union High School district. She must comply with strict federal regulations to put together a school lunch where the labor and packaging can take up two thirds of the cost of the lunch, sometimes only leaving one dollar for the actual cost of the food.
Silver Springs students, some of whom have struggled in a traditional school setting, are responding positively — one student exclaimed: “This is the first real thing I have ever done in school.” Ms. Lane is optimistic about the long-term effects of this program: “I hope that the students will walk away with a real experience that grows something beautiful inside of them.”