Iowa needs more school gardens.
That’s the major recommendation from “School Gardens in Iowa: Raising More than Just Food,” a report authored by Iowa Policy Project research intern Jenna Ladd and released May 14.
Ladd called for the state to provide $1,250 in funding to 400 kindergarten through 12th grade schools — at a total cost of $500,000 — for a yearlong school garden pilot.
The program is “a great way for students to participate in experiential learning at school,” said Ladd, who helped Northwest Junior High School teacher Mike Loots and his students with the Coralville school’s garden and included his reflections in the report.
Ladd said school gardens should be viewed similarly to other activities, such as clubs and sports teams. “I don’t see why something that has so many benefits would be any different,” said Ladd, a University of Iowa junior studying sociology.
Ladd cited Children & Nature Network data showing that “a distressing 9 percent of children in the United States consume the recommended five servings of produce daily.” School gardens, according to Ladd, are a venue for students to improve their nutrition and academic performance as well as saving money for schools and benefiting the environment through reduced shipping of fruits and vegetables to and from schools for meals.
Ladd said it’s difficult to determine how many Iowa schools have gardens, because some staff members fund their initiatives through donations or private grants. Thirty-five schools can participate this year in A Garden is the Way to Grow, a program through the Iowa Department of Agriculture and Land Stewardship, which provides equipment and $150 to each school to start a garden. Ladd recommended the initiative as a way to increase the number of school gardens in the state.
“The Iowa Policy Project has always tried to look at issues that are facing communities and individuals in the face of what public policy does,” said Executive Director Mike Owen. “This is something where public policy can be used or considered to improve people’s lives.”
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