USDA People's Garden Program

The People's Garden School Pilot Program

Picture Iowa State University Extension and Outreach is one of four state cooperative extension services that together will develop and run the People’s Garden School Pilot Program. It will serve an estimated 2,800 students attending 70 elementary schools in Washington, New York, Iowa and Arkansas.

The Cooperative Extension Services of Iowa State University, Cornell University, and the University of Arkansas are collaborating with Washington State University Extension, the lead institution, on the project. Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack made the announcement today.

The Healthy Gardens, Healthy Youth pilot explores the impact of school gardens on learning and on changing student consumption patterns so they make healthier food choices.

"School gardens hold great promise for educating our kids about food production and nutrition," Vilsack said. "Learning where food comes from and what fresh food tastes like, and the pride of growing and serving your own fruits and vegetables, are life-changing experiences. Engaging kids in our efforts to end childhood hunger and curb childhood obesity is critical if we are going to succeed."

The $1 million pilot program is authorized under the Richard B. Russell National School Lunch Act. The schools selected to participate in this pilot come from urban, suburban and rural communities and have at least 50 percent of their students qualified to receive free or reduced-price school meals. The initiative is part of the USDA People’s Garden Initiative, which establishes community and school gardens across the nation to help unite neighborhoods in a common effort and inspire simple solutions to challenges facing our country – from hunger to the environment. The announcement comes as First Lady Michelle Obama’s “Let's Move!” initiative celebrates April as National Gardening Month.

17 Iowa Schools Participate

Approximately 1,478 second and fourth grade students, 68 teachers, and 18 ISU Extension and Outreach specialists will be participating in the research, curriculum, and gardening components of the program. The following sites will start the research project in fall of 2011. Read about the success stories from the participating school districts here.

Lenox, Taylor County
East Union, Afton, Union County
Mt. Ayr, Ringgold County
Clarke, Osceola, Clarke County
West Liberty, Muscatine County
Madison, Muscatine, Muscatine County
Dunkerton, Black Hawk County
Eldora New Providence, Hardin County
Webster City, Hamilton County
Walnut Grove, Council Bluffs, West Pottawattamie
Rue, Council Bluffs, West Pottawattamie County
Hunt, Sioux City, Woodbury County
Hiawatha, Cedar Rapids, Linn County
Mark Twain, Iowa City, Johnson County
Kittrell, Waterloo, Black Hawk County
Lowell, Waterloo, Black Hawk County
Poyner, Evansdale, Black Hawk County

  Iowa State University Extension and Outreach Youth Program Specialist and Connecting Learning and Living Program contact, Cayla Taylor, is the Iowa leader for the project. ISUEO Agriculture Program Specialist and Connecting Learning and Living Program Co-Director, Linda Naeve, is a co-leader for the project.

4 Goals for School & Community Gardens: 

  • Increase fruit and vegetable consumption

          “We want to increase kids’ access to and consumption of fruits and vegetables through hands-on learning about growing food,”
          Toering (now retired) said.

  • Empower youth in their communities

          Youth will be highly involved in building and sustaining the gardens to maximize their interest and learning.

  • Contribute toward a sustainable environment and food system

          The pilot will help kids and educators appreciate the public health, environmental and social benefits gardens provide to local    
          communities, such as physical  activity, the connection to nature, fresh food production, social networks and sustainability.

  • Build a nationwide network

    Extension educators and volunteers will work across disciplines to leverage existing federal, state and local investments in programs like SNAP-ED  (Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program Education), 4-H Youth Development, Master Gardeners and other community-based horticulture programs through a common garden-based learning program.

“This important pilot program will make a significant contribution to the development of national models,” said Kevin Concannon,
USDA Under Secretary for Food, Nutrition and Consumer Services.“This program moves us toward our goal of improving the health and nutrition of our kids and communities, and instilling healthy eating habits that can last a lifetime.”

Schools will receive:

  1. EarthBox™, raised bed kits, traditional tilled garden supplies, or a combination of gardens
  2. The best nutrition, gardening, STEM, 2nd grade and 4th grade curriculum bundles of weekly lessons and supporting resources.
  3. Research equipment and supplies.
  4. Webinar trainings for research (fall 2011) and curricula and gardening (winter 2012).
  5. Support from extension and community partners.
  6. Multiple grant opportunities and contributions to expand the program


Share |