The fall harvest is under way at Sugar Mill Elementary, where students, teachers and staff operate 10 “edible gardens.”

Gardening provides fresh air and exercise to improve motor skills, promote healthy eating, and help students with social skills and STEM concepts, said Dr. Marie Bracciale, Certified School Counselor and sponsor of the school’s therapeutic gardens.

“Our School Way Cafe manager, Ms. Feeney, features various recipes in our cafe during harvest periods for students to try – like ‘rocket salad’ when we harvest our fresh arugula,” Bracciale said. “Students are more likely to try foods if they grow them, nurture them and harvest them. The importance of healthy eating will ripple throughout their lives.”

Sugar Mill uses a master gardener from UF/IFAS Extension, and a nutritionist from the Extension office educates fourth graders on how to grow and harvest their own food and make good food choices.

The fall harvest included cherry and beefsteak tomatoes, kale, radishes, beets, Japanese eggplants, pineapples, peaches, lemongrass, arugula, red leaf lettuce, bock choi, broccolini, broccoli, cabbage, okra, green beans, collards, carrots, leeks, fennel, Mexican oregano, basil, cilantro, green peppers, strawberries, cucumber, sunflowers, sweet potatoes, Brussel sprouts, cauliflower, and parsley. Fresh cuttings and veggies are made available to students and staff daily.

The winter garden was planted at the end of January, once the frost had passed. There are 10 gardens all over campus, plus a butterfly garden, and Coach Schuman maintains the fruit trees. PreK has its own gardens, and kindergarten through fifth grade work in the large therapeutic garden, which is used as a calm-down area and outdoor classroom, Bracciale said.

FUTURES Foundation for Volusia County Schools has been major supporter to help Sugar Mill sustain the program. And a new fundraising campaign is under way now.

Could you provide “seed money” to help their gardens grow?



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