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Anchoring Plants, Anchoring the Community

Food Yields Given to Area Families

A new botany class at Lee Middle-High School has students thinking about roots, the kind that anchor plants and the kind that anchor communities.

The class of ninth- through 12th-graders is growing tomatoes, beans, cucumbers, peppers, kale, broccoli, cauliflower and other herbs and vegetables in the school’s raised-bed gardens and in the schoolyard greenhouse as part of the Deep Roots project.

Community members in the low-income area will pick the harvest to fill their fridges and pantries, and students will pass out plants during monthly food-truck visits, promote urban gardening and explain how to grow produce in their own yards.

Junior Ana Valle smells a cherry blossom plant in the schoolyard where students are growing plants and wildflowers
Junior Ana Valle smells a cherry blossom plant in the schoolyard where students are growing plants and wildflowers

“What we are looking to do is to establish deep roots in the community, to promote a healthier lifestyle, and to do that we are using plants,” said science teacher Deb Truszkowski.

The class cultivated seedlings inside the classroom for transplant to the greenhouse, and recently prepared the structure by cleaning, staining and readying the garden beds. The greenhouse was funded through a service-learning grant from State Farm to Kent ISD for sustainable urban agriculture projects in Godfrey-Lee and Kelloggsville Public Schools.

“This is the first year we are going to be actively growing in the greenhouse,” Truszkowski said.

Dispersing Food and Well-Being

There’s science behind making healthy, nutritious food available to everyone in the community. Botany is a new elective at Lee, where students dig deeper into agriculture by studying conditions and impacts of light, water and weather, and learning to become green thumbs. Tying it to a project that affects the neighborhood is exciting, Truszkowski said. “The students can have an impact on their neighborhood and see the results. To take care of a plant from the very beginning to the very end is satisfying.”

Christopher Jaime and John Perez identify spots for sunlight and shade
Christopher Jaime and John Perez identify spots for sunlight and shade

Sophomore Roy Duran said he’s started growing vegetable plants at home. “It’s kind of complicated, but at the same time it’s pretty easy. I’m growing tomatoes and peppers for my family. The main reason why is because of this.”

He said he’s interested in seeing the impact the project will have. “We are basically growing our own good food, and we are going to make the community healthier and better.”

Added junior Jennifer Hernandez: “We will have more communication with the community, too.”

Junior Christopher Ventura likes that his neighbors will get to save money on groceries.

“It’s quick access to get healthier food,” added freshman Marcus Nesbary.

Students recently used a map of the school grounds to identify areas of full and partial sun and shade. They are also planting native wildflowers to attract pollinators.

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SNN Article about the Greenhouse

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Erin Albanese
Erin Albanese
Erin Albanese has worked as a journalist in the Grand Rapids area since 2000. A graduate of Central Michigan University, she has written for The Grand Rapids Press, Advance Newspapers and On-the-Town Magazine. She has been covering the many exciting facets of K-12 public education for School News Network since 2013. Read Erin's full bio or email Erin.

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