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Published on September 8th, 2015 | by Millennium Magazine Staff

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District Five school awarded Youth Garden Grant, starts new garden

Students and staff at Chapin Elementary plant broccoli, collards and other vegetables as part of a Sept. 4 garden groundbreaking event to announce a new grant. 

CHAPIN – A Lexington-Richland District Five elementary school has been awarded a new grant aimed at teaching students where their food comes from and growing educational school gardens nationwide.

Chapin Elementary School students and staff held a garden groundbreaking on Sept. 4 to announce the Youth Garden Grant by national nonprofit organization KidsGardening.org. The $1,000 grant provided funds for three raised garden beds and supplies, which will be maintained by kindergarten classes and special needs preschool classes at the school. District officials say the grant for Chapin Elementary is part of an effort to continue to grow the district’s Farm to Five program.

“We now have around 80 percent of our schools with educational gardens and/or greenhouses, and much of that has been because of grants and the Farm to Five program,” said District Five Student Nutrition Director Todd Bedenbaugh. “There have been several benefits. Teachers are able to use the gardens for hands-on lessons. And we’ve also found that if they grow it, they eat it. We are seeing more students eat vegetables because they’ve planted them and grown them at their schools.”

Since 1982, KidsGardening.org has awarded nearly 10,000 awards, totaling $4.1 million. District Five was selected as one of 20 award winners from a pool of more than 1,000 applicants for the 2015 Youth Garden Grant administered by KidsGardening.org with donations from Gardening with Kids Shop, True Temper, Bonnie Plants, and Windowbox.com.

At Chapin Elementary, educators say the new garden will be used in literacy and math lessons for kindergarten students. It will also be used as a sensory activity for special needs preschool students at the school, and both groups will later taste test the “fruits of their labor.”

“The students will be planting, maintaining the garden, and measuring and reading about the plants they grow…and hopefully that will open both their minds and their palates in many ways,” said Chapin Elementary Principal Lauren Prochak. “Our new school garden will provide practical, cross-curricular, hands-on lessons for our students; allowing them to literally see and taste the fruits of their labor. We hope these lessons, both in and outside the classroom, will begin in our garden and last a lifetime.”

Chapin Elementary School’s new garden is the latest of several initiatives and programs promoting healthy meals in District Five through grants and sponsorships. In July, the district announced a $30,000 grant from the BlueCross BlueShield of South Carolina Foundation, an independent licensee of the Blue Cross and Blue Shield Association, to fund the district’s new food truck. The district’s Student Nutrition Department hosted a “Chopped” cooking contest for fourth grade students last May as part of District Five’s federal Farm to Five grant. Awarded in 2013, the nearly $100,000 U.S.D.A Farm to Five award also has provided summer training for cafeteria staff, teacher and staff field trips to local farms, and upgrades to several school gardens.

Students from the Center for Advanced Technical Studies built the raised garden beds for Chapin Elementary and installed them during the summer.

“Our Farm to Five initiative has benefited students all across District Five,” Bedenbaugh said. “We’re just proud to be a part of the national Farm to Five initiative and excited about what it means for our students.”

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