- Associated Press - Sunday, September 27, 2015

TUPELO, Miss. (AP) - Students at Thomas Street Elementary and the Early Childhood Education Center will get to watch vegetables grow from start to finish, from planting the starter plants on Sept. 15 to eating them in the cafeteria after the harvest.

Kindergarteners at Thomas Street spent the afternoon on Sept. 15 working in the garden with Tupelo Schools FoodCorps member Tylar Sester.

“They’re definitely enjoying the dirt and putting their hands in it and learning the parts of the plants,” Sester said.

The students planted red cabbage, Brussels sprouts, lettuce, cabbage, collards, kale, broccoli and cauliflower in raised beds in a courtyard at Thomas Street.

These vegetables will later be harvested by the students and incorporated into school meals.

Sester also worked with pre-kindergarten students at the Early Childhood Education Center on Sept. 14.

The gardens are part of the district’s Growing Healthy Waves program, a partnership with FoodCorps that uses farm-to-school principles to teach students about food and nutrition.

Donna Loden, director of Growing Healthy Waves, said through tending to the plants and watching them grow, children might have a greater appreciation for vegetables and be encouraged to eat healthier.

“If children grow it, they are more likely to jump in and eat it,” Loden said.

Having grown up around farming, Sester wanted to teach people about where food comes from, which led her to FoodCorps.

“I realized it’s kind of a luxury to understand exactly where food comes from, especially for today’s youth,” Sester said.

Kindergartner Meg Wise, 5, said her favorite vegetable is cauliflower.

“My mommy puts cauliflower on my salad, and I really like to eat it,” Wise said.

Wise also said she enjoyed planting in the school garden on Sept. 15 because vegetables are healthy, and she liked getting her hands dirty.

Sester said she admires the students’ excitement over the vegetables and the parts of the plants that she teaches them.

“They are inquisitive and love the simplest things, especially with this, the simple things like the roots and the dirt,” Sester said. “They remind me to appreciate the simple things.”

The 2015-16 school year marks the program’s second year, and the program expanded to include Parkway Elementary this year. Joyner Elementary also participates in the program.

Loden said she hopes the program will continue to grow and attract families to Tupelo Schools.

Schools being the backbone of the community, Loden said, makes bringing young families into the community reliant on what the school district has to offer.

“We do believe that especially millennials might be encouraged to place their children in schools with an emphasis on health,” Loden said.

Those who want to know more about the Growing Healthy Waves program can visit its Facebook page.


Information from: Northeast Mississippi Daily Journal, https://djournal.com

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