How One Bronx School Is Raising Awareness About Health Eating
The feel of dirt between fingers, the smell of farm fresh carrots just harvested—gardening connects us with nature, and for students at P.S. X811 it also encourages the development of social and communication skills.
Throughout the garden at P.S. X811 on Longfellow Ave., in the South Bronx, young adults with special needs grow fresh produce including collard greens, carrots and eggplants. They harvest the vegetables together, run a community farmers market together and learn how to hold a job together.
“Our students are giving back to the community, learning healthy eating habits, and making that information known to the community,” teacher Paula Lucas said.
P.S. X811 is a special education school serving students ages 13-21 with multiple disabilities. Their horticulture garden program which includes a hydroponics grow system is part of the school curriculum. Students with the most severe disabilities are able to participate in environmental stewardship through the program and students work on math, reading, social and communication skills.
“They count money, interact with people in the community, work on social skills,” teacher Sandy Helms said. “It’s more than gardening, it’s also health education, an all around great thing for the student population.”
From mid-September to November, the students run a farmers market on Thursdays from 11:30 a.m. to 2 p.m., open to the community. The market closes during the winter months but reopens in the spring. The program is done with the support of Slow Food NYC’s Urban Harvest, a grant program for NYC schools that helps schools teach children about the effects of good food. P.S. X811 reached out to Slow Food NYC for assistance in expanding the garden program to the local community in the form of the farmers market.
“It’s been a great relationship, they’ve been instrumental in helping to build the program,” Lucas said.
Slow Food NYC currently works with roughly 15 schools throughout the city, provident grant money but also logistical support to schools including hydroponics aquaponics consultation, lessons from a community gardener, supplementing farmers market's with additional produce delivery, cooking demonstrations and more.
“We want to make sure that these programs sustain and develop and expand over time,” Slow Food NYC’s Diane Tiller said.
Scoop up some of the delicious farm-fresh produce yourself when the P.S. X811 farmers market reopens on Sept. 21