Carmel Clay students grow food in garden for cafeteria

Photo of Carmel Clay school bus. (WISH photo)

CARMEL, Ind. (WISH) — West Clay Elementary School third graders will be taking a field trip Monday morning to a community garden that provides food to those in need and to the schools.

Those students will learn about rain gardens, composting, identifying vegetables, wise watering techniques, walk in the woods, taste five fruits and plant seeds in plots set aside for food pantries.

The garden is located at Carmel Middle School. Any Carmel resident or Carmel-Clay Schools employee can purchase a plot for the year for $10.

The school district also has some plots, and the food they grow this year will be used at Carmel Middle School.

It’s a school district wide effort. For example, a few weeks ago, College Wood Elementary School students planted seeds that will be brought over to Carmel Middle School on June 1 to be planted. They’ll be growing items like tomatoes, peppers, squash and basil. All of the food is organic. Any food that is not used this school year is frozen to be used for meals next school year.

Those who help run the garden say it’s a great opportunity to teach kids about gardening, healthy eating and to get kids outside.

“We at Carmel have a real opportunity here to lead these students and offer them what they need to sustain a healthy lifestyle and the school gardens are a huge part of that,” said Susan McCord, the Food Service Manager for College Wood Elementary, who also oversee the school cafeteria gardens.

“Technology is great, and there’s absolutely a place for it, but we really like kids to get outside and my daughter has called herself part of the “lookdown generation,” coming out to the garden and having an experience out here gets the kids to look out more than look down, and we really feel like that’s something that’s a little bit lost sometimes on students in this day and age so this gives them a chance to be outside, out in the woods, out in the garden and just learn a little bit more about growing food and about our environment,” said Marcia Roberts, who is on the Plots to Plates Community Garden committee.

The community garden is one of the projects the Carmel-Clay Schools Green Team works on. The green team is made up of parents and community members who help advise and support green projects in the school.

Some of the districts’ other green efforts include four-day work weeks for employees in the summer, alternative fuel for buses, and a program to recycle batteries and light bulbs.

The district says these efforts help the environment and save money. According to the Carmel-Clay Schools’ website, this school year the district has avoided spending more than $740,000 because of the programs. Since the district started their energy savings program back in 1995, they have saved around $20 million, according to a document on their website. 

“We think that as a public school that, ya know, we’re definitely a part of the community and we think it’s important that we are good stewards of the taxpayers money and good stewards of the environment and really do our part to set the example. Particularly again, as an educational institution, we are affecting children’s lives and we certainly want to do our part to share with them and expose them to being environmentally friendly,” said Roger McMichael, Associate Superintendent for Business Affairs.

According to the district, 11 buildings have received Energy Star Awards, awards given to organizations who help improve energy efficiency.

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