SanLorenzo

San Lorenzo: Project EAT!

Building Self-Sustaining Neighborhoods Through Community Farms

Learn more about how San Lorenzo High School increased community awareness and buy-in on healthy eating below!

Issue

Currently San Lorenzo High School’s community farm is maintained only by Project EAT! interns and does not hold much support from the student body and staff. The lack of support from the school community leaves Project EAT! with the responsibility of taking care of the farm alone. Although the farm is not the largest, its upkeep is hefty and should not be left to one group.

Methodology

In order to assess various stakeholders’ barriers to greater involvement in the community farm, the research team compiled questions and possible methods of actions to include in surveys. They used Google Forms to gather data from broader audiences (e.g., students and other school gardens) and emailed school administration officials directly, giving respondents a three month window to reply. Key informants included leaders from the Twin Rivers Farm, the San Lorenzo School District, and San Lorenzo High School. 75 students from the school were also included.

Data Management and Analysis

To increase leadership and ownership while also streamlining data management, different students served as point people for the various stakeholder groups.

Taylor led the “Other Gardens & Farms” group. They emailed their Google Form to three contacts from successful farms and received one response from Twin Rivers Farm. The representative there relayed that what makes their farm most successful is that it is truly maintained by the community, especially youth, and benefits from tremendous . Outside help has greatly aided Twin Rivers Farm’s success.

Angelina and Scott led the “District & School Administration” group. They emailed the principal and assistant principals at San Lorenzo High School, as well as a director at the San Lorenzo School District, and received responses from the principal and school district representative. In a meeting with the principal, students learned that the administration could not provide help with the garden but suggested that the environment-based club on campus, Druids, might be a good place to look for support. The school district representative communicated that on-campus community gardens were outside his program’s purview. Scott, along with classmate Sarah, also met with another district representative to discuss the future of the garden. They proposed two mechanisms to get more students in a hands-on practicum in the garden a few days per week: (1) starting an agricultural sciences class, and/or (2) mandating the preexisting Environmental Leadership in Action class for all freshman. These pathways would presumably lead to better upkeep of the garden, student investment into the garden, and supportive culture toward the garden. To round out all their options, the students also discussed keeping the garden under Urban Design, a course that teaches students about careers in agriculture, engineering, public health, transportation, urban planning, and green business.

Finally, Sarah led the “Student Body” group, which managed the 75 responses from San Lorenzo High School students. Data revealed that not many students were familiar with the community garden but that they still supported having the garden nonetheless and thought that an on-campus club should help maintain it.

Action

To make their garden more self-sustaining, they built a greenhouse to grow more plants, especially during the winter. The greenhouse facilitates the students’ ability to grow their own plants from seeds, rather than having to buy plants from supplies. This saves both money and the earth, by reducing transportation emissions.

Project EAT! recently hosted Kale Yeah! day: a day dedicated to celebrating healthy and sustainable food and raising awareness of the on-campus school garden. At lunch, Project EAT! interns and several students from other clubs tabled numerous booths centered around healthy living and sustainable agriculture. One club in particular, Youth Consciousness, collected over 300 signatures to implement California Thursdays  (http://www.californiathursdays.org) at San Lorenzo High School. Overall, the event was hugely successful with student and staff participation though more district support would have strengthened it even more so.

Barriers Encountered

The biggest barrier for this group was a lack of response and engagement from some of the targeted stakeholders. Other barriers included lack of awareness of the garden and low funding.

Future Directions

Ongoing research and action will be key to the long term success of the garden. Because of the constantly evolving nature of student populations, regularly assessing and impacting the attitudes and policies related to the garden will be crucial. Turnover in school and district staff may also yield important opportunities to elevate the prioritization of the school garden as well.

One immediate opportunity that emerged came from Green Engineering and Technology (GET), a small learning community at San Lorenzo. GET recognized the importance of the garden and proposed to have mandatory volunteer hours in the garden for their freshman to instill a sense of responsibility and awareness of where their food comes from.

Moreover, the research team is also working with their district’s Nutrition Services department to get fresher, more locally grown fruits and vegetables into school meals – some of which may come from the garden.

Learn More

If you have any questions about this project, you may contact Kate Casale at kcasale@acoe.org.