Funding School Gardens
Charity of the Month
Our August charity, Gardeneers, builds student-run, school-based gardens to create healthier food options and hands-on horticultural learning.
Here at Flowers for Dreams, we are committed to using fresh, locally grown flowers whenever possible. We also believe in using flowers and horticulture as a tool for gainful learning and job training (see our unique partnership with Cook County Jail). As an extension of this, selecting and funding our August 2017 charity Gardeneers was an incredibly natural fit. For two summers now, we’ve partnered with them to buy student-grown flowers, fund their school gardens, and more generally, support their sustainability and healthy living programming.
The dedicated team at Gardeneers builds and maintains gardens at over 20 Chicago Public Schools. At each, they provide meaningful after school activities via their garden-based learning, nutrition classes, and more. Numerous studies have confirmed the mental health and interpersonal benefits of these school gardening programs; in addition to providing students with hands-on access to nutritional education, they also strengthen their connection to nature and improve their sense of community.
Remarkably, children are four times more likely to include fruits and vegetables into their diets if they grow and harvest these foods themselves. In guiding them through the seed-to-table process, the team at Gardeneers empower these students to make nutritionally sound decisions that lead to long-term healthy relationships with food.
On our team visit to Smythe Elementary School last week, we spoke with a number of students participating in the summer internship program. One young girl told us her favorite aspect of the garden was discovering and learning about new types of vegetables she’d never heard of. Gardeneers also facilitates the distribution of the harvested produce in a number of ways. By assisting schools in the “Eat What You Grow” program, these fruits and vegetables are introduced into the school’s cafeteria. They call this the garden-to-cafeteria model. Students get to host local farm-stands for their communities and are often encouraged to take food home for their families.
For more on how to get involved, whether via maintaining their gardens, funding new ones, or simply spreading the word, visit gardeneers.org today.