Author: Trina Nguyen
San José’s community of apartments, complexes, and crowded houses limit students to engage in nutrition and building community. Growing Sustainably has influenced students from Kindergarten to 6th grade on the importance and benefits of healthy lifestyles. Growing Sustainably has 4 sub-projects: Gardening Workshops, Gardening Club, Cooking Matters, and Neighborhood Harvest. With the San José State University students and San José residents actively working together, people can engage in a healthier, sustainable way of living that brightens our community.
Gardening Workshops are held at McKinley Elementary School for 4th through 6th grade students. During class time, we take an entire grade class to the school garden and spend an hour to engage the students with the garden. SJSU students maintain the role as Garden Educators who provide weekly lessons and activities for the students to understand more about gardening. The young students have the opportunity to taste new and familiar foods, learn about how gardening benefits the environment, and how growing your own produce is tastier for one’s body. Students have yet to be taught in school the importance of healthy eating and why gardening matters.
One student announced that he has been telling his family about what he learned and now they are planting their own radishes and carrots.
In noticing how excited the students are about gardening, the community is influenced to provide a good example to the students and pursue healthy eating options and growing their own produce.
Gardening Clubs are held after school, in which students volunteer their free time to garden. We expand the grade levels from 3rd to 6th grade students for gardening. The lessons are similar to the Gardening Workshops, but we focus more on engaging garden-related activities over basic lessons. SJSU students are able to provide teaching opportunities whenever we present the young students with garden activities. Not only are they having fun getting their hands dirty, they’ll remember that gardening can be fun and beneficial. Parents who pick up their students arrive earlier to see how much fun their students are having. Parents even get to taste test with the students when they arrive on time.
One of the parents has mentioned that he would love to invest in Gardening Club by providing a compost bin in Horace Mann Elementary.
Cooking Matters was founded in 1993, and CommUniverCity is lucky to be working alongside with them to provide nutritional lessons and healthy cooking to students. This aspect of the program is extremely important because it teaches students about how to eat healthier, even while on a budget. With San José’s increasing prices on housing, it is essential for our community to recognize that eating healthy does not mean eating expensive. Through a six-week course, students understand their food facts, their way of shopping for cheaper, healthy options, and fun ways to cook with the family. Cooking Matters is also an after-school event, which means that students are volunteering their time to learn more about the importance of eating healthy. SJSU students allow the young students to prepare their own meals, be open-minded to new tastes, and how to make something “icky” taste “yummy”.
With Garden 2 Table, the Neighborhood Harvest has been another important aspect of Growing Sustainably. On Saturdays, we recruit neighborhood residents and high school students to pick fruits from neighborhood trees. All of the picked fruit gets distributed to food programs such as Second Harvest Food Bank and the Olinder Community Center. The remaining produce is sold at Garden 2 Table for a cheaper price than stores, such as Whole Foods Market. The purpose of gathering residents to pick fruit from other residents’ trees is to show how much produce that fruit trees bear, and how the community can help each other with all these fruits that one family cannot finish eating alone. This event is a fantastic way to build community because people are working together to pick something delicious from a tree and to learn more about the trees’ stories from the owners. In the end everyone can enjoy the fruits of their labor, literally.