In Cabarrus County, almost half of all children (47.4%) ages 5-11 are overweight or obese. Nationally, school garden initiatives are demonstrating strong evidence towards increasing children’s food and vegetable consumption. Through the REACH grant, the school garden initiative aims to increase the accessibility and availability of fresh fruits and vegetables in Cabarrus County schools by establishing new and revitalizing existing school gardens. The goals of the school garden initiative are to:
- Increase student access to healthy, fresh foods.
- Increase student knowledge, attitudes, and behaviors related to consumption of fresh foods.
- Align garden activities with NC educational standards and childhood development.
- Ensure sustainability of the garden by integrating it into the school’s culture and instruction.
Selected schools participate in an introductory training during staff development days on the basics of a school garden—what to plant, how, when, etc. They also learn about curriculum options as well as other ways to integrate the garden in school instruction. All supplies required to establish new or revive existing gardens are provided including seeds, soil, tools and lumber. Quantities are determined based on the school’s application and a survey of the school grounds and needs. Both the REACH Program Coordinator and School Garden Trainer are available to assist schools throughout the process of garden planning, development and maintenance. This includes technical assistance and on-site training as needed.
Schools with vacant land to use for a community garden were eligible to participate.