I didn't grow up with a school garden...

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By: Ellie Doyle, Fall 2016 Development Intern What does it take to turn a pile of dirt into a schoolyard garden? What goes into the creation of a program that unites kids, teachers, parents and community members to provide children with unique opportunities for growth? At a time when children?s health needs more attention than ever, how do we make sure that urban kids get to taste new grains, help vegetables grow, and have fun along the way?

As a Development Intern at CitySprouts, I have the opportunity to find answers to these questions every day. Studying food systems, nutrition, and public policy at Tufts University, I first became interested in school gardens a couple of years ago. To me, garden education seemed like the common ground between dozens of deeply important causes, from hunger and public health to academic engagement and environmental sustainability. The benefits are so clear that school gardens seem an easy win.

That doesn?t mean that a lot of work isn?t required to make it happen. Over the course of my four months at CitySprouts, I have spent most of my time in the office in Cambridge, helping with the everyday tasks that make garden education in Boston and Cambridge public schools a reality. That includes planning for our upcoming annual fundraising gala; processing generous donations from families and organizations all over the Boston area; connecting with parents, principals, and local businesses; and coordinating volunteers for big events like CitySprouts? Annual Cider Pressing.

On some of my favorite days here, I?ve had the opportunity to help out in the schools themselves. Pressing apple cider with the kids this October was chilly, challenging, and hugely enjoyable. For me, watching kids engage with the natural world, and helping them understand their connection to the food they eat, is a truly meaningful experience. When I told one of the kids at Tobin Montessori School that we?d be making apple cider, he said, perplexed, "You mean like at the store?" He got a kick out of helping make cider from real apples, and so did I.

I didn?t grow up with a school garden, but some of my earliest memories are in the school cafeteria. Food connects us all. When we connect eating with gardening, and gardening with science and math, we?re making a better, healthier world.

My time at CitySprouts has been deeply fulfilling, and I?ve enjoyed every day I?ve spent here. After I graduate, I hope to continue working to connect children across the country with the world outside--and with fresh, healthy, delicious food.

Andrea Locke