On Nov. 1, the Healthy Foods for Healthy Kids (HFHK) Garden Dedication & Ribbon Cutting Ceremony took place at Phillip C. Showell Elementary School in Selbyville. HFHK is the only organization in Delaware that works with public schools to design and implement vegetable-gardening programs that operate during school hours, fit into the academic year, support the existing Delaware science curriculum and engage every child in the school.
The HFHK mission is to teach elementary school students how to grow and harvest fresh healthy vegetables and to provide opportunities to eat the garden-fresh vegetables they’ve grown. A measure of success is that the demand for the program exceeds their capacity to provide it, representatives noted.
The history of HFHK goes back to 2003. Thianda Manzara, HFHK founder, was inspired by a visit to the Edible Schoolyard (ESY) in Berkeley, Calif. Begun by a famous chef, Alice Waters, ESY supports a 1-acre vegetable garden and teaching kitchen designed to enrich the curriculum of Martin Luther King Middle School, a school of approximately 1,000 students. The cost to maintain the staff of ESY for one school year was more than $400,000.
Manzara wanted to start a similar program in Delaware that was of a more affordable and practical model. In 2008, the HFHK nonprofit organization was formed, and it is consistently growing as an organization. Manzara will retire in December of this year. Executive Director Lydia Sarson was hired in February, and soon a garden coordinator will be hired for Kent and Sussex counties.
Currently, 35 in New Castle and Kent counties already have an HFHK garden in place. Phillip C. Showell is the second such garden in Sussex County.
Phillip C. Showell has approximately 300 students. All students will participate in classroom lessons designed by HFHK, which meet the criteria of supporting Next Generation Science Standards, conforming to the academic calendar and schedule, and promoting student health.
Vegetables are selected that have a 6- to 8-week growing time. A fall and spring planting will take place each year. Each grade level has a different task. The kindergarten and first grade plant the seeds, while second grade prepares the soil, third grade waters the vegetables, fourth and fifth grades harvest the vegetables, and fifth grade cleans and composts the garden beds.
The whole school will participate in the Harvest Celebration, which will take place when all the vegetables have been harvested.
The Coastal Gardeners helped make the garden at Phillip Showell happen. The group is an active garden club with approximately 30 members, formed in Bethany Beach in October 2017. The club has been involved in many community improvement projects, and it is the financial sponsor for the HFHK garden at Phillip C. Showell. The garden will be paid for by the club over the course of the next five years.
Coastal Gardeners literally built the garden beds from the ground up. On a very hot, humid day in August, the Coastal Gardeners had 14 participants construct four garden beds and a 7-by-7-foot shed for equipment and student supplies. Two garden liaisons from the club will periodically check on the beds and put the garden to bed after each growing season in the fall and spring. They will also work closely with Phillip C. Showell’s principal, Christy Kerr.
Jeremy Smith, owner of Millville Organics, donated the soil for the two garden beds. The HFHK garden was dedicated to Smith’s mother, Nancy E. Smith-Straus, who was a teacher at Phillip C. Showell Elementary School.
Kerr could hardly contain her excitement about the implementation of the Healthy Foods for Healthy Kids program at her school.
“Every person at the Garden Dedication/Ribbon Cutting Ceremony could feel the joy and sense of wonder that comes from watching tiny seeds grow into edible plants!” representatives said.