By Ryan McGinnis
On an unseasonably warm day last week, students and teachers at Dodson Elementary School began building their new school garden. The project was made possible by Urban Roots, a local nonprofit dedicated to teaching kids in grades K-12 the importance of diet and healthy living, and a community outreach grant from Raley’s.
The grant is part of a company-wide initiative to “uplift the communities we serve,” said Sarah England, Raley’s Community Outreach Director. The Raley’s grant program supports educational and nutrition activism in California and Nevada, especially among financially disadvantaged neighborhoods, like the ones that make up Dodson Elementary School in southeast Reno.
This is the third school gardening project Urban Roots has facilitated with Raley’s grant support. Alice L. Smith Elementary School and Glenn Duncan STEM Academy have also benefited from the Urban Roots program with funding from Raley’s. In total, the supermarket chain has given more than $30,000 for school gardening programs in Washoe County.
The funding allows the nonprofit to bring a gardening expert into the classroom to teach students the value of a healthy, balanced diet, as well as, the basics of good gardening. It also covers the cost of labor and materials to build the garden.
Since Nevada has a short growing season, education is done indoors until the growing season is ready to start. Once the season begins, “gardening is like magic,” said Fayth Ross, Executive Director for Urban Roots. “It brings the textbook to life, making it easier to teach kids.”
According to Ross, there is a strong correlation between one’s socio-economic status and healthy eating habits. Unfortunately, for kids that grow up in low-income households, they’re far less likely to eat nutritionally-balanced diets and maintain a healthy weight. That’s why Urban Roots started their classroom programs — because it’s much easier to develop these healthy habits before adolescence.
Students get to decide what to plant in their garden. Though, unquestionably, there will be rooted vegetables and potatoes in Dodson Elementary School’s garden, given the fact Nevada’s arid climate makes for a short list of viable foods to grow.
At the end of the day, Ross said she is most excited for what this small gesture affords in the future. Urban Roots is working with the teachers of Dodson Elementary to make gardening part of their regular curriculum so the project can thrive even after the grant money runs dry.
To learn more about Urban Roots visit: https://www.urgc.org/.
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