This week, Bethany Christian Schools was awarded a USDA Farm to School grant of $55,088 to expand the school’s already existing farm to school program. This grant will allow all students on campus (grades 4-12) to participate in meaningful and creative farm to school activities.
Head of School Tim Lehman said, “We are proud to be one of three federal grantees in Indiana, as the project is part of the school’s vision for holistic, interdisciplinary, hands-on learning.”
Farm to School Grants support a wide range of activities that increase the amount of local foods served in child nutrition programs and teach children about food and agriculture.
Bethany has had a vegetable garden on campus since 2011. It is maintained by faculty members and students of all ages, as classes have helped grow the food for use in the cafeteria. Bethany also works in partnership with two neighboring public elementary schools: Waterford Elementary and Prairie View Elementary. Students from these schools will participate in the project by visiting Bethany’s campus for educational events and taking other field trips to local farms and markets.
In addition to expanding already existing programs like the vegetable garden, Bethany plans to have students help raise chickens. The cafeteria will strengthen partnerships with local vendors so that most every school lunch served includes something grown at the school or by local farmers.
Food Service Director Tara Swartzendruber Landis previously served as Bethany’s farm to school coordinator. Because of this experience, she is uniquely poised to lead students in food-related educational activities several times a month.
“What is really exciting to me is how this continues the path that Bethany has already been on for a long time. We’ve already been focusing on the school gardens, on composting, on working with the kids on thinking about food choices and local food,” said Tara. “It just makes sense with what we've already been doing. The idea of introducing animals and other plants is so exciting because that’s not an experience that every kid gets to have at home. Making sure every Bethany kid does get that experience is such a neat opportunity.”
These experiences offer many learning opportunities that fit well into the curricula for life sciences, environmental science, biology, health, Family and Consumer Science (FACS), and nutrition courses offered at Bethany. Students will learn about specific plants, their health benefits, and the “anatomy” of fruits and vegetables. They will learn about water and nutrient chemistry, climate control, meteorology, and many other topics across disciplines. For example, the economics teacher plans to use our school garden as a case study to investigate the economics of locally grown food compared to mass-produced distant-sourced food.
The faculty of Bethany Christian Schools embrace holistic education, seeking to provide learning opportunities beyond the walls of the traditional classroom. This grant will further empower teachers to enhance and expand experiences in their current classes as well as offer new opportunities for students.
“Planting, tending, and harvesting the food we eat is an educational and rewarding process for students,” said Environmental Science and Biology teacher Amy Thut. “I'm excited that we can expand these opportunities for more students at Bethany.”
Over the past few years, Bethany has taken major steps towards increasing student access to locally grown food and helping them learn about its benefits. This grant will help students and faculty build on the enthusiasm that these tastes of locally-grown food provided.