The awards program was held at Nichols Elementary where special guest Sen. Debbie Stabenow also joined with students to formally launch a new school garden collaborative at their school site
Detroit Public Schools’ Office of School Nutrition handed out its first-ever “Salt of the Earth” and “Golden Shovel” awards to partners of the district’s healthy school nutrition efforts and Detroit School Garden Collaborative.
The awards ceremony, held at Nichols Elementary, included a visit by special guest U.S. Senator Debbie Stabenow, Chairwoman of the U.S. Senate Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition and Forestry, who joined with Nichols students to formally launch a new school garden collaborative at their school.
The garden is part of an innovative new education program at Detroit Public Schools called the Detroit School Garden Collaborative, which is creating gardens at 46 schools throughout the district. The new garden will provide Nichols’ students with a hands-on agricultural learning experience where they can plant a variety of vegetables that will be used in the cafeteria for school lunches. Each of the gardening locations will feature raised beds, compost bins, rainwater collection equipment, gravel walkways and a Farm to School Learning Center.
Betti Wiggins, Executive Director in the Office of School Nutrition said: “We are so proud of our efforts to improve the health and well-being of our students by offering every child a free nutritious breakfast and lunch daily so that they can fully concentrate on academics and not on hunger. Our expanding garden program, where students make connections through our science curriculum and their lives through their school gardens, provides an important bridge between learning and health for our students, while also bringing fresh garden foods right to their cafeteria tables.”
The Nichols school garden kicked off this year following the addition of 6 raised garden beds and the launch of a school garden club led by teacher Barbara Lothery. The club is credited with raising awareness among students about the importance of urban gardening and healthy eating. And students reportedly are so eager to participate that they stay late after school and check on the garden during weekends and non-school days.
“The Indian Village Men’s Gardening club was so impressed with the Nichols program that they purchased 6 additional raised beds from the collaborative to expand the school garden,” said Zaundra Wimberley, Farm to School Manager for the Detroit School Garden Collaborative. The Office of School Nutrition also supports the program through a dedicated garden attendant, Bree Hietala, who works in conjunction with Ms. Lothery to provide hands-on student education, cooking demonstrations and testings and general education about careers in agriculture.
During the event, Senator Stabenow toured the garden with students. She also helped announce the winners of the Golden Shovel Awards to honor local organizations for supporting the Garden Collaborative.
Chairwoman Stabenow said: “All children should have access to healthy fruits and vegetables during the school day. Everyone is a winner with this innovative Garden Collaborative, as cafeterias gain a supply of fresh produce and students have an opportunity to learn about farming by doing it themselves. I will continue leading the effort to increase access to Michigan-grown food choices for children and families, which will support our local farmers and help boost Michigan agriculture.”
The Gold Shovel Award winners were:
- Eastern Market Corporation
- The Home Depot
- Henry Ford Hospital West Bloomfield Greenhouse
The Salt of the Earth Award recipients were:
- Barbara James Norman, Edible Wow
- Statewide Disaster Restoration
- MIG East
- Tooles Contracting Group
- Detroit Contracting Inc.
- U.S. Foods
- Domino’s Pizza
- Gleaners Community Food Bank of Southeastern Michigan
- Indian Village Men’s Garden Club
Detroit School Garden Collaborative Appreciation Award recipients were:
- United Way of Southeastern Michigan
- MSU Product Center
- MSU Extension
- The Greening of Detroit
- East Michigan Environmental Action Council