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Banks Road Initiative Sows Love for Gardening

Banks Road Elementary School
Raleigh, North Carolina

In 2017, Banks Road Elementary School, a year-round school in Raleigh, North Carolina, built a school garden. Unsure of the interest and skill levels of their students, minimal investment by the PTA was made in soil, compost and sustainable structures as the parents planned for light planting and weeding on Tuesday mornings. Over time, students’ interest in gardening grew, but the school and PTA had limited funds to continue to improve the gardens. Through a Parents for Healthy Kids grant sponsored by ALDI, the school was awarded a $1,000 grant in order to improve and expand their garden initiative for the 2018-2019 school year.

Robin Vouga, parent and PTA leader, was a key member of the team at Banks Road that led the charge for the project. Excited for the opportunities the grant provided, Vouga said, “The more we can build, the more students we can allow to participate. The more students that participate, the more kids will learn how to build and tend to their own gardens and the more home gardens we will see. Those require more physical activity (and less TV and iPad time!), so we are creating a culture of movement while growing healthy food for ourselves!”

Not only does the Banks Road garden provide exposure to nutrition education and fresh fruit and vegetable taste tests, but it increases physical activity for students who are weeding, watering and gardening. The garden has also contributed to many causes within the school, such as a Backpack Buddies program that typically sends canned food home to students on the weekends. With the implementation of the school’s new and rejuvenated gardening program, the students have been able to bring backpacks full of fresh, organic produce home on the weekends to share with their families.

Another bonus of the garden? Instead of surprising teachers with sugar-filled treats for Teacher Appreciation Week in May, students were able to create hand-crafted salads with lettuce and garden-grown vegetables. They surprised their teachers with lunch and cards proclaiming “Lettuce love you!”

Banks Road Elementary School has created a culture of wellness at their school surrounding their gardening program. Their students’ love of gardening will continue to grow, much like their giant cucumbers, thanks to Action for Healthy Kids and ALDI.