By Clare S. Richie

Six years ago, Teresa Groshans saw a need for healthier choices at her kindergartner’s school cafeteria. Rather than just focus on her daughter’s lunch, she started a school garden. “Every Wednesday, I met each kindergarten class in the garden for period of instruction, activities, and tastings. The garden brought joy to their day and a new setting for learning,” Groshans said.

With the help of others, Groshan’s vision took root and began to grow. More parents and faculty volunteered. Murphy’s restaurant hosted dine-outs to raise funds and gave chef demonstrations.  Whole Foods pitched in with 5 percent days, grants, and staff who installed planter boxes. Nicolas Donck of Crystal Organics donated 1,000 seedlings each year. Atlanta Public Schools and Sodexo began re-thinking menu options, like canned fruit.

As gardens sprouted up at Morningside and Springdale Park Elementary Schools (MES and SPARK) – parents, faculty, local businesses, local farmers and others – formed the Schoolyard Sprout Foundation. Today, this nonprofit primarily helps MES and SPARK students, parents and faculty experience gardening, cooking, and eating local and fresh foods – to promote healthier choices for themselves and their environment.

Children of all grades plant, maintain, and harvest the garden while covering required curriculum. Murphy’s and Atkins Park’s chefs show students and parents how to prepare the collected produce. The school cafeteria offers more fresh fruits and vegetables – so long canned fruit chunks in syrup.  There are fresh fruit Fridays, new composting initiatives, trips to Morningside Farmer’s Market and more underway. Groshans said the next step is to make the current programs sustainable and add more schools.

For more information, visit schoolyardsprouts.org.

Collin Kelley

Collin Kelley has been the editor of Atlanta Intown for two decades and has been a journalist and freelance writer for 35 years. He’s also an award-winning poet and novelist.