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2016 Challenge Runner-Up

Portland High School
Portland, TN
"Get Healthy: A Panther Community Garden"

In an effort to promote lifelong, healthy eating habits for our students and a sense of community service, "Get Healthy: A Panther Community Garden" was conceived.  The garden is located on school grounds and is operated by students in the Agriculture Science classes.

The goal of this project is sustainable supplementation of fresh fruits and vegetables to the Panther Pantry, food pantry serving underprivileged Portland High students. Food that is currently donated to the pantry is of little nutritional value and high in fat content. The project is a collaborative, hands­on project that spanned across the curriculum involving many subject areas. Math classes determined the size of the garden based on the area available and the distance between rows of the garden area to accommodate the produce to be planted and harvested. Science classes soil tested the area to determine if amendments needed to be made to the soil in order to have a successful garden. The Ag Science classes germinated plants in the greenhouse and transplanted them into the Panther Garden as well as tended and harvested the produce. Health Science classes promoted a healthy eating initiative across the building. Art classes created an agricultural mural of the top commodities of each state in 2014.  Special Education classes prepared food for a healthy eating initiative to promote farm to table. Food Science classes used local produce to create healthy snacks that were shared among the students in the building that correlated with the healthy initiative and farm to table.

As the garden was one spoke of the wheel, the above projects were the other spokes while the hub of the project was the Media Center. The MediaSpecialist was involved in all aspects of the project from planning, researching, as well as working with classes with the hands­on projects. Students were taught how to locate, evaluate, and cite information resources using databases. Students had to research some aspect of each project discussed above before the hands­on tasks occurred. Goals were met when students completed the research and then the tasks during each phase of the project.

The main goal transpired at harvest time when fresh fruits and vegetables were given to Portland High School students and their families. At this point, all spokes came together with the hub to complete the wheel of success. This has become a year­round project assisting many students and families. This school year will be the fourth year for a successful “Panther Garden”.

Assistance was given throughout the school year by local farmers, the local Agriculture Extension Office, parents, community members, FFA Alumni members, and a multitude of faculty and staff of Portland High School.

The long term goal when the garden started was to increase the families receiving food from 25 to 50 families. This goal was met at the beginning of the 2016­2017 school year.

With the garden being a success and now semi self­sustaining, other gardening initiatives have occurred. Container gardening has been introduced to the Foods and Nutrition classes. The classes will use the Media Center to research using print as well as on­line resources, to determine which foods grow better in containers. Fruits and vegetables from the container garden will be used to create healthy meals with recipe cards for the Panther Pantry recipients. Special Education classes will begin a Pizza Garden where they will grow items in conjunction with the Panther Garden, that can be put on a fresh pizza. Items to include basil, parsley, peppers, and onions. Not only is healthy eating being promoted, but there is a demonstration of community service within our school community. Portland High School sees all activities involved in this project as a way to show students how to be self­sufficient, where our food comes from, and an introduction to careers in the agriculture/foods industry.

­The Panther Pantry has increased the fresh foods going home from 25 families to 50 families. Students harvested over 158 pounds of food from May to current that was donated to people in need.

To demonstrate another aspect of growing your own food, aerogardening and aquaponics will be introduced. The Agriculture Science teacher would use the funds to purchase The Miracle­Gro AeroGarden Classic 7 indoor grow kit from AeroGarden and The Back to the Roots Water Garden/Fish Tank from Ace Hardware.