By: Taylor R. Jones
Friday, April 22, represents Earth Day! And what more satisfying way to celebrate than to taste fresh grown herbs and vegetables? Today, the Atlanta Public Schools (APS) Nutrition Department served chicken with pasta and green beans seasoned with district-grown garden herbs in all APS cafeterias.
The fresh rosemary and basil used to prepare these menu items were all grown inside the Benjamin E. Mays High School aquaponics and hydroponics greenhouse system. Mays High School is the only school in the district with a greenhouse that uses aquaponics and hydroponics to grow year-round herbs and vegetables. Their greenhouse has even become the flagship program for the District Grown Gardens Initiative, creating Mays’ School Urban Agricultural Club.
Not only has Mays’ School Agricultural Program helped create a nurturing environment where students can learn more about harvesting vegetables, but it has become a safe-haven that has inspired the student body to live a healthier lifestyle.
Mays High School Junior and member of the Mays High School Urban Agricultural Club, Jessica Bell, enjoys the positive impact the District’s Grown Garden Initiative has had on her lifestyle. I’ve learned so much about agriculture, the water cycle and the environment,” said Bell. I even became a vegetarian two months ago. Fresh food is just so much better for you, and it tastes better, too.”
District Grown Garden Initiative menu for Earth Day: Chicken with pasta and green beans seasoned with district-grown garden herbs.
The District Grown Garden Initiative wants to focus on increasing a student’s consumption of fruits and vegetables, while making the connection between school garden produce and foods served in the cafeteria. Between the APS Nutrition Department, the Captain Planet Foundation and Sodexo Jackmont, the program has become a test pilot at select schools, including: Beecher Hills Elementary, King Middle School, Maynard Holbrook Jackson and Mays High Schools.
Students at Garden Hills Elementary School said they loved eating the fresh-cooked vegetables.
“I liked the carrots,” said Ava Grace Adams, a pre-kindergartner at Garden Hills. “They tasted good.”
Ava’s classmate, Jack Wheeler, said he also enjoyed his meal.
“When you first eat it, it tastes juicy,” said Jack, who ate green beans and chicken and pasta that were cooked with fresh rosemary and basil.
Gloria R. Mulloy, regional nutrition compliance specialist for APS schools that include Garden Hills, said the celebration helped promote healthy eating habits.
“This shows students that food can be healthy and tasty,” she said. “Hopefully, they will come away with an appreciation for new foods and vegetables they’ve never eaten before.”
For more information on APS’ partnership with the Captain Planet Foundation, please click here.