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Detroit students help grow and harvest crops in “Farm to School” concept

October 22 2013 | no comments

farmer pic

In a sign to the changing seasons, morning dew covered the crops during an early October visit to Drew Transition Center.

Still, the year of growth will continue in the one-acre garden and growing house located in the back of the school.

Several dozen cognitively-impaired adult students, ages 18 to 24, work to harvest green peppers, cucumbers, and cherry tomatoes–vegetables that wind up on the students’ plates during lunch.

John Wisniewski is manager of the farm and kitchen at Drew.  Farmer John, as he’s called here, worked to turn a former ball diamond into a field to feed.

“To feed the children of Detroit, that is the main focus right now,” Wisniewski said.  “The main focus is to get quality food in so that they’re eating them.”

The concept is being developed out of the DPS office of School Nutrition, according to Zaundra Wimberley, manager of the Farm to School program.

“It gives them more access to something healthy and also we partner with academic achievement so they get to learn about the importance of nutrition that they can get from the fruits and vegetables,” Wimberley said.

The garden at Drew Farms will eventually expand to two and a half acres. Already this year, 2,000 cucumbers have been harvested inside the greenhouse which is located next to the garden.

“The entire salad that’s going to go on the plate, is all grown right here,” Wisniewski said.

The just-picked vegetables are taken right to the kitchen where other students help in the preparation of the meal that will be served that day.

“I feel very fortunate to be at this particular school and working with these kids and seeing them grow, to be able to have a couple of kids actually on payroll now that graduated from here,” said Wisniewski.

It’s the hope and goal of DPS to expand the program, according to Wimberley.

A federal initiative allows child nutrition dollars to be used to put gardens in at schools. There are currently 48 school gardens in the DPS system. Even in its infancy, Drew Farms showcases the potential that exists in growing products that can fuel students in multiple ways.

“There’s so much land here,” Wisniewski told Detroit 2020.  “These farms could be put throughout the whole city and this food can be taken into every one of the schools,” he said.

“Local produce, locally grown right there on the school grounds, it doesn’t get any better than that or more local, said Wimberley.

Or more fresh.



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