To encourage healthy food choices, Mount Shasta Elementary School students were treated to a warm bowl of fresh vegetable soup during lunchtime on Oct. 13. Not only was the soup healthy, it was also made from vegetables the children planted, cultivated and harvested themselves from the school garden.

To encourage healthy food choices, Mount Shasta Elementary School students were treated to a warm bowl of fresh vegetable soup during lunchtime on Oct. 13. Not only was the soup healthy, it was also made from vegetables the children planted, cultivated and harvested themselves from the school garden.

Each class has their own bed to grow whatever they choose, kindergarten teacher Leslie Marconi said.

Many of the beds recently went from flowers to vegetables with the school’s emphasis on healthy living.

Last week, classes harvested a bounty of vegetables and herbs, including zucchini, onions, carrots, celery, tomatoes, potatoes and beans.

The classes then cut up the vegetables in preparation for the pot.

“It’s a wonderful way for students to get hands-on experience,” said Marconi.

Wednesday, the cafeteria was filled with the rich smell of vegetable soup.

Although not every child chose to sample it, the soup was a hit with many.

“I like the potatoes best,” said Andrew Covington, who finished off his entire bowl.

First graders Harley Grace Alley and Genesis Hernandez had seconds, munching on the veggies and slurping up the broth before packing up their lunchboxes and heading out to the playground for recess.

The garden was started in 1996 by now-retired teacher Vicki Newfield and AmeriCorps community coordinator Denny Engdahl, explained garden supporter and retired MSE teacher Jane Huston.

In the following years, the project was awarded a national grant and was supported by local businesses, civic organizations and community members. At the same time, the California Department of Education, in collaboration with the California Department of Health Services, developed guidelines for school gardens in order for children to discover fresh food, encourage healthy food choices and foster improvement of student health.  

The CDE and DHS also supported research linking school gardens and nutrition education with the improvement of academic achievement.  

In the years that followed the MSE garden project was hampered by a lack of AmeriCorps funding, Huston said. Teachers and volunteers tried to maintain the project, but needed more help.  It was also believed that Mount Shasta’s short growing season was a deterrent to a successful, year-round school garden.

In 2006 California Assembly Bill 1535 was signed by Governor Schwarzenegger promoting school gardens, and in that spring, a group of retired MSE teachers, led by Nancy Harmon, began efforts to revitalize the garden.  

With Marconi acting as a liaison teacher, they appealed to various businesses and organizations for help.

John Roshek and other members of the Mt. Shasta Community Garden offered their time and expertise. Grant monies were awarded through AB 1535, reestablishing the garden to its present state.

Huston thanked several individuals and businesses, including the Mount Shasta Garden Club, the Mount Shasta Community Garden, Partners in Education, Ace Hardware, Spring Hill Nursery, Native Grounds Nursery and  Leafstone Landscaping for their support of the garden.

If you are interested in donating time, materials or financial support to the garden, contact the MSE school office at (530) 926-3434.