Murphy Students Eat What They Grow

October 29, 2013

Gardens grow, students harvest.

By Lauren Schneider, HSC Intern

To many of us, October 17th was just a cold and rainy Thursday morning in Chicago. To the kids at Murphy Elementary, it was still a cold and rainy Thursday morning. But, they didn’t let the weather get their spirits down.  These kids were too busy having fun harvesting vegetables from their school garden!

Students in pre-K and fourth grade teamed up to pick carrots, tomatoes, peppers, and even some mint from their garden, and they had a blast doing it! Drew Thomas, School Garden Coordinator for Chicago Public Schools, was there to teach them the tricks of the trade. He showed them the proper way to harvest a carrot, being careful not to pull the tops off leaving the carrot stuck in the ground. Even I learned some gardening tips just from observing this harvesting session!

I wasn’t the only one who was learning. Before the pre-K students went out to harvest, they used some classroom time to learn about the 5 food groups: Grains, Vegetables, Fruits, Protein, and Dairy. Bacon unfortunately was not one of them, much to one student’s dismay. The kids had fun thinking of fruits and vegetables that all started with the letter A, then B, and so on.

Murphy Elementary has been piloting Chicago Public Schools’ “Eat What You Grow” program for about a year now. They are one of 8 schools participating. Through this program, schools are given training and support to grow and harvest their own fruits and vegetables to serve in their very own school cafeteria.

Drew Thomas has been enthusiastically working to implement this program in several schools across CPS for the past year. The program is still in the piloting stages, but the mission is clear.

“At its core, this program is about getting students excited about eating fresh, healthy produce. They're never more eager to eat a carrot then when they've just twisted it out of the garden!”

89 Murphy Elementary students got their hands dirty as they harvested dozens of carrots, tomatoes, and even a few peppers. The amount of produce that has gone from garden to cafeteria as a result of the Eat What You Grow program now totals over 250 lbs. to date.  

This program is an opportunity for kids to learn about healthy living. It can help them develop better eating habits and teach them the importance of overall health and wellness. Tarrah DeClemente, the Nutrition Education Coordinator for CPS, expressed the importance of taking a step back and looking at the real impact that these programs are having on our children.  It’s quite a sight to behold. They’re full of excitement, pulling carrots out of the ground with the same expression they would show if they were opening their Christmas presents. They want to have a hand or two in growing and preparing their own food. And, when the food they’re enthusiastic about growing is proven to lead them to live healthier lives, that’s the cherry on top.

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Read about past gardening successes at Murphy!