Pittsburgh Public Schools Approves New Learning Gardens
Over the next four years, Grow Pittsburgh and The Kitchen Community will partner to expand school garden programs and availability across Pittsburgh
The Pittsburgh Public School (PPS) board has approved Grow Pittsburgh and The Kitchen Community, two non-profit organizations, to build the first five of 50 Learning Gardens in Allegheny County over the next four years. Grow Pittsburgh, an urban agriculture organization with a mission to teach people how to grow food and promote the benefits gardens bring to neighborhoods, and The Kitchen Community (TKC), an organization committed to joining communities to accelerate real food culture at scale, have partnered to make the most impact in Pittsburgh.
PPS will be the first district in which this opportunity will be available. In the next six months, phase one of the project will be complete. The two organizations will partner with the District to design, build and launch programming at five schools that have previously expressed interest in having one. These schools include Pittsburgh Arsenal, Lincoln, Minadeo, Oliver Citywide and West Liberty.
The partnership will solidify and expand Grow Pittsburgh’s school gardening work in the region over the last 10 years, including garden creation and continued instruction at 13 schools across the County. Four of these are PPS schools seen as flagship models for it’s programming: Pittsburgh Colfax, Dilworth, Faison and Montessori. Through leveraging The Kitchen Community’s experience in product design, installation and teacher training, the partnership will further strengthen Grow Pittsburgh’s engagement at PPS and beyond.
“Through this partnership students will have an opportunity to participate in the type of hands on learning we know students need to stay engaged,” said PPS Superintendent Linda Lane. “We also know that, as we teach children the importance of healthy eating, they are far more likely interested in eating foods they have grown and prepared themselves. We are grateful to both Grow Pittsburgh and The Kitchen Community for their efforts to bring the benefits of gardening to our students.”
The Kitchen Community has built and supported 300 Learning Gardens across 4 regions nationally; Pittsburgh will be the 5th community they join. Learning Gardens are unique because they are custom designed to meet the needs of the school, offer raised beds to be accessible to all students, provide low-maintenance and built-in irrigation and can be installed on a variety of surfaces. In addition to its garden system, TKC brings scalability and additional national relationships in the school garden movement to Pittsburgh.
“Pittsburgh is such an awesome city. The community has come together to truly reinvent the food scene,” said Kimbal Musk, co-founder of The Kitchen Community. “By partnering with the dedicated people at Grow Pittsburgh we are joining the Pittsburgh community to accelerate real food culture at scale.”
To best leverage the expertise of Grow Pittsburgh and The Kitchen Community, the Learning Gardens’ design and installation will be led by a local Project Manager; and on-going training, support and technical assistance will be supported by Garden Educators at Grow Pittsburgh. Schools will receive two years of direct support from both organizations and will then graduate from the program with more limited support in subsequent years. This structure is designed so that after two years, schools are confident in running a sustainable school-led garden program with limited outside support, which in turn enables more new school gardens to be established.
“We are thrilled to partner with The Kitchen Community on this exciting project to rapidly expand school garden construction and instruction across our region,” said Julie Butcher Pezzino, Executive Director of Grow Pittsburgh. “Given how much interest we’ve seen in this work, over the last 10 years, these gardens are a much needed and welcome addition to our work and to Pittsburgh.”
Grow Pittsburgh and The Kitchen Community are excited to be actively recruiting new school partners for Spring 2017! In order to be considered for a Learning Garden, interested schools must apply, and amongst other requirements, show support for a garden from teachers, administrators and parents, organize a garden leadership team and identify an initial suitable site for a garden. Strong preference will be given to schools with at least 50 percent of the population eligible for free and reduced price lunch. All schools must be located within Allegheny County. Applications are now open for new gardens. They can be accessed at www.growpittsburgh.org under School Garden Programs. The deadline to apply is May 13th.
The project is funded through the generous support of the Heinz Endowments, the Henry L. Hillman Foundation and the Richard King Mellon Foundation.
Julie Butcher Pezzino, Executive Director, Grow Pittsburgh
Jess Simmons, The Kitchen Community
Interested Schools Contact:
Jake Seltman, Director of Educational Programming, Grow Pittsburgh