Elementary school goes green for better health

In a "food desert," fresh ingredients for healthy meals can be hard to come by. But a new initiative is offering important lessons to elementary students at one Dallas school.

DALLAS — As the first day of spring approaches, volunteers are trying to do what nature struggles with: Yield a harvest in a desert.

Dozens of volunteers helped transform a part of John Quincy Adams Elementary School into a garden and outdoor classroom.

"It tends to be a lot of junk food, so one of the things that we are educating them on is making better choices," said Principal Nancy Bernardino.

By USDA standards, John Quincy Adams Elementary School sits in the middle of a food desert — a part of East Dallas where low-income residents have little access to healthy, affordable food.

"Having a garden and being able to grow your own fruits and vegetables impacts their choices, because as they grow fruits and vegetables, they'll choose fruits and vegetables," Bernardino explained.

It's a challenge that parent Maritza Barrera knows well. "We honestly don't have access to stores," she said. "It's not fresh; it's not from where we want to get it."

The majority of the students at Adams Elementary — more than 90 percent — qualify for free or reduced lunch. Barrera said in general, the less money for food she has, the more unhealthy her options become.

Now families are being offered a way to emerge from that kind of thinking.

"It is about the families that are coming to the school, and supporting the school... it's not just about the kids that are on the campus, but that everyone comes together," said Ellen Robinson of the non-profit, REAL School Gardens.

With $100,000 in backing from Wells Fargo, REAL School Gardens has selected five schools in North Texas for a "green" remodel. It's hoped to be a long-term relationship.

"We partner with the school for several years to train the teachers to actually use their garden as a classroom, so that it gets integrated into the instructional practice on the school grounds," Robinson explained.

And now those school grounds that will bloom into to a garden — one seed at a time. ​


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