PHOTO BY NICOLE GOODHUE BOYD
Krystle Fandel and her son Julius Ruiz, 9, work to screw in a metal corner for an outdoor raised planting bed.
By BRIDGET TURCOTTE
LYNN — Students at Robert L. Ford Elementary School will soon live off the fat of the land.
When students return to school on Monday, they’ll begin planting lettuce seeds for a spring gardening project. Six weeks later they’ll harvest the lettuce and use it to make salads for lunch. They’ll have the option to take what’s left over home with them, said Jenn Coverdale, a FoodCorps service member working on The Food Project initiative.
“These kids are learning to grow and eat their own food,” said Coverdale. “This is a project we’re doing with all of the city’s third-graders, so all 500 students will grow lettuce.”
The Food Project is a Lynn-based nonprofit that works to help youth and adults from diverse backgrounds build sustainable food systems. The organization offers youth and community programs at different levels and in multiple seasons. Its goal is to engage young people in personal and social change through agriculture.
According to the FoodCorps website, one in three of the nation’s children are overweight and on track to develop diabetes in their lifetime. More than 30 million kids rely on their school for lunch; more than 12 million for breakfast.
Third-grade teachers Melanie Maselbas and Nicole Guarino helped break down old, deteriorating garden beds and build new ones Friday morning. Julius Ruiz, a third-grader at the school, and his mom, Krystle Fandel, also showed up ready to work during school vacation week.
“It’s healthy for you to eat the food that grows,” said Ruiz, 9. “I like that we’re helping nature.”
His mom said she was impressed by the project and is attempting to start her own garden at home this spring.
Guarino said the hands-on activity fits with what the students are learning about plants in class. She said she felt the project would give the children a sense of ownership to see the work that goes into growing their own food.
Maselbas added gardening will benefit her visual learners.
Bridget Turcotte can be reached at [email protected]. Follow her on Twitter @BridgetTurcotte.