WV Innovation! Children Growing Winter Herbs for School

2/22/2017

Shepherdstown, W.VA. – Schoolchildren at Marlowe Elementary in Berkeley County are learning how to grow their own herbs – during winter! This innovative indoor gardening education and growing project is part of the Shepherd University SNAP-Ed project that brings nutrition and healthy living education and projects to approximately 4,500 children in four Berkeley County and three Jefferson County schools. 

Shepherd University AmeriCorps Promise VISTA volunteer Emily Gilmore, of Frederick, Maryland, led the design and installation of the indoor winter garden at Marlowe Elementary this past December. She was assisted by fellow Promise VISTA Harlee Marsh, of Shepherdstown, West Virginia. They helped parent volunteers and staff assemble the 5-foot tall growing stations and taught children, staff, and parents how to plant basil, parsley, and sage seeds in small plant pots. Each child planted an herb in a pot and labeled it with their name so they can watch their plants grow! 

“We are so thrilled that this part of our SNAP-Ed project has launched! Last spring and fall students helped install outdoor gardens in a few schools. As part of our Smarter Lunchroom and Gardening Education activities, we wanted to try out student-led indoor gardening that purposefully links to foods served in school cafeterias. Marlowe is leading the way and showing great success!” says Dr. Danielle Hollar, Director of the two-county SNAP-Ed initiative. 

This pilot project is possible through funding from the United States Department of Agriculture, in collaboration with WVU Extension. "We are excited that SNAP-Ed funds sent to WV are supporting this type of project! Indoor gardening is an innovative solution to incorporating farm to school concepts year round and herbs are a low cost way to create tasty meals without all the sugar and salt," says Kristin McCartney, Extension specialist-public health and SNAP Ed coordinator for WV. 

The Marlowe Elementary indoor winter garden is located in the cafeteria which allows all students to observe the growth of the plants each day then they come to lunch. Once the herbs are ready to be PRESS RELEASE harvested, they will be used in meals the school prepares for the students. “By focusing on herbs that can be used in the cooking of school meals, our hope is to expose kids to the many different tastes that are out there,” says Principal Stevens of Marlowe Elementary School, “and hopefully, inspire them to eat more healthy school lunches and carry it over at home.” Tracy Heck, Director of Child Nutrition and Wellness with Berkeley County Schools also is thrilled about this innovative food growing program. “‘To plant a garden is to believe in tomorrow,’ Heck says, quoting Audrey Hepburn. “That is so true. Gardening in Marlowe’s indoor garden gives our Berkeley County students ownership of their own learning; encouraging not only the science aspect of gardens but also diet and nutritional practices.” Heck continues, “Studies show that school food growing improves student achievement, builds life skills, and improves health and well-being. It’s a win-win for all our tomorrows.” 

Mill Creek Intermediate, another Berkeley County school, is scheduled to have an indoor growing system installed at their school in early February. Principal McCoy at Mill Creek Intermediate is excited for their school to start this program! "The staff and students at Mill Creek are looking forward to working with the SNAP-Ed program. Our students are excited to grow produce and try new foods that will be prepared in the school cafeteria" McCoy says. They will be growing herbs, spinach, and other leafy greens, all to be used in their school meals.

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Contact Information

For more information, visit www.fivepromises.wv.gov or contact Pam Dugan at 304-661- 1460.