Growing Roots has been proud to partner with Whole Kids Foundation since 2017. When we first wanted to expand our support of urban agriculture beyond New York City, the obvious place to turn was our friends at Whole Kids. Whole Kids Foundation was started in 2011 to improve children’s nutrition and wellness. The foundation supports schools and inspires families by giving children greater access to fresh healthy foods, with grants that provide schools with salad bars, edible educational gardens and nutritional education for teachers and school staff.

Children at school garden

Gardens are becoming an increasingly common educational tool and for good reason: school gardens are shown to improve children’s behavior and performance at school and improve their attitudes about and appreciation for the environment. Additionally, only two percent of children eat enough fresh fruits and vegetables, but studies show that children who have a hand in growing food are more likely to eat fruits and vegetables, and, to be more knowledgeable about nutrition.

There’s no better way to get kids interested in something than with hands-on activities. The lessons learned when doing activities such as growing healthy food and learning how to prepare it can last a lifetime. School gardens give them a break from their desks and instead get them outside for part of their education. Scientific studies have shown that school gardens increase a student’s likelihood to try vegetables, and can also impact their preference for vegetables over unhealthy snacks and, ultimately, the amount of fresh vegetables they eat. That can lead to a lifetime of healthier habits that goes far beyond their school years. School gardens are also an incredible educational tool, acting as a perfect outdoor classroom for STEM engagement with their interdisciplinary intersections of science, technology, engineering and math. They also serve as an outdoor refuge, acting as a therapeutic space for many children and an opportunity to develop social and emotional learning as students work together to grow food in a new environment outside of their classroom.

To date, Growing Roots has funded 29 school gardens through Whole Kids Foundation in low income areas of Chicago, Miami, Houston, and Los Angeles. Whole Kids Foundation has also played a crucial role in introducing us to local organizations like EnrichLA, Gardeneers, and The Education Fund, with whom we have built larger and even more impactful partnerships beyond a single grant. Here’s a couple of our favorite success stories from schools who created gardens through a Whole Kids Foundation Garden Grant funded by Growing Roots

Luke O’Toole Elementary-Chicago, IL

Student cutting tomato

Luke O’Toole Elementary partners with Gardeneers, a Chicago-based school garden support organization, to receive garden-based education support twice a week with seven classes and more than 150 students each year. Each student gets to visit the garden at least once a week through their programming but Gardeneers also works with the teachers to incorporate their lesson plans into the garden so that they can have outdoor education whenever they want! Every fall, the students get to showcase their growing dedication with the community through a community farm stand.

Whittier Elementary-Houston,TX

Whittier Elementary school students gardening

With our support, Whittier Elementary was able to purchase a much-needed large garden shed to organize and hold all of their garden tools and garden teaching supplies. They also were able to pay for annual garden supplies and then provided teachers who go above and beyond to support the garden through workdays and events, with a stipend. People power is a key component to a successful school garden. This year they expanded their garden programming into their after-school program, and now students report not wanting to go home when their parents pick them up!

Interested in a Garden Grant for your school?

The Whole Kids Foundation Garden Program allots $2,000 grants to schools or organizations working with grades K-12 via a thorough application process. With this, schools can create functional, educational gardens right on their grounds.

To receive a grant, schools or organizations must complete a detailed blueprint for their success. They are evaluated on a number of areas: children’s engagement and integration into the curriculum, leadership, sustainability plan, and engagement with the community.

Grants are awarded with geographical diversity in mind for maximum impact, and span every state and province in the US and Canada. They also reach students of all different economic backgrounds. Of all the students gaining access to these gardens, 60 percent receive free or reduced lunch.

Once the gardens are created, they become a valuable resource for connecting students to where their food comes from, instilling in them valuable lessons of healthy eating. Students can also receive hands-on experience planting, cultivating, composting, and cooking.

Applications are open each year from September 1st to October 15th. Apply here