Growing Great Schools is a community-based effort in West Hartford, Connecticut, to create healthier schools by connecting food, culture, health, and the environment.
The vision of Growing Great Schools is to empower West Hartford Public School students to become active participants in their nutritional and physical health, while caring for the planet.
- In the past three decades the prevalence of obesity among children ages 6 to 19 has tripled in this country.
- The Center for Disease Control has stated that because of Type II Diabetes, our children are in danger of being the first generation in US history to die younger than its parents.
- Our children are set to inherit a host of challenges including threats to climate change, environmentally linked illness, loss of biodiversity, depletion of natural resources and the end of cheap energy.
It is imperative we supply our children with the tools necessary to meet these challenges. School communities can play a critical role in developing these tools and fostering healthy choices.
Studies show that when students have a connection to their food sources, they are more likely to make healthy choices, protect the environment and cultivate strong sustainable communities. A comprehensive approach linking food, culture, health and the environment can foster that important connection. Our current initiatives include the following:
- Supporting the efforts of West Hartford Nutrition Services by offering the Chefs Move to Schools program. One of Growing Great School’s most important alliances is the relationship it has developed with local chefs. Each public elementary school is paired with a local chef. The chefs have developed a variety of healthy menu options, which are introduced to students through taste testing events.
- Ensuring that each school gets a salad bar and is able to offer fresh, healthy choices on at least a weekly basis to all students and staff.
- Coordinating Fall and Spring student-run farmers’ markets, in an effort to expose students and their families to healthy, locally-grown produce.
- Supporting the efforts of the schools to develop school gardens that are maintained by students.
- Promoting physical health and fitness in schools by developing and supporting programs such as running clubs, fun physical activities at recess, before and after school.
- Offering a junior master gardener curriculum in conjunction with UCONN to provide a turnkey solution for teachers who are interested in incorporating lessons from a school garden into their own curriculum.
- Serving as an advocacy group and central resource for parents, educators and community members to implement our mission.
This approach has proven successful in public schools all over the country. When given healthier food choices including more fruits and vegetables, students were more likely to consume them if they learned about their food, its nutritional benefits and corresponding environmental issues through hands-on activities including School Gardens, Chef to School and Farm to School programs. To learn more or to get involved, please e-mail us at firstname.lastname@example.org.