Rye YMCA Awards Grants to Port Chester School Gardens

PCMS-garden-presentationweb[December 20, 2014. Port Chester, NY] The Port Chester School Board recently voted to accept $4,500 from the Rye YMCA to support edible gardens at three of the district’s schools: JFK Magnet School, Thomas A. Edison Community School and Port Chester Middle School.

The $1,500 grants will allow the schools to enhance garden programs already started or create a new garden. Each of the awardees submitted an application outlining their goals for outdoor classrooms, where students could learn not only about gardening, but also about science, math, English Language Arts and technology in a hands-on setting.  The Y is also encouraging schools to engage students in discussions around access to nutritious, affordable food and to consider any inequalities in their own community.

Specific projects include:

  • JFK Magnet School: Founded in 2008, the garden at JFK yielded more than 400 pounds of produce during the 2013 growing season, all of which was donated to the Carver Center in Port Chester. JFK has effectively integrated its STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) curriculum into the students’ work in the garden, and has formed strong partnerships with corporate and non-profit supporters. Nutrition education is also an important part of the garden program. The min-grant will be used to maintain the program during the summer of 2014, allowing students to work with teachers to continue learning throughout the summer months.
  • Thomas A. Edison Community School: Thomas Edison submitted a proposal to develop a garden from the ground up. As a full service community school serving a largely low-income immigrant population, Edison is designing a garden that will be a true collaboration between school faculty and staff, families, residents and local non-profit organizations. The garden will complement Edison’s partnership with Open Door Family Medical Center, which provides health services within the school, by offering fresh produce and nutrition education to students and families.
  • Port Chester Middle School: The Port Chester Middle School Giving Garden was established in 2007 and promotes physical activity, healthy eating, problem solving, and collaboration. The garden curriculum integrates the Common Core standards and leads to discussions about hunger, food deserts and health equity. During the 2013 harvest season, 1,000 pounds of food was grown: 70% was donated to local food pantries and soup kitchens, 10% was used in the classroom and 20% was shared with a group of family volunteers. The grant will help pay for an irrigation system for the garden. 

The Y’s school garden mini-grant initiative grew out of a Centers for Disease Control Community Transformation Grant (CTG) received by the Rye YMCA in 2012. Funded through the Affordable Care Act, the CTG program seeks to create healthier communities by making healthy living easier and more affordable where people work, live, learn and play.

As part of this work, the Rye Y has mobilized local partners in Port Chester and Mamaroneck around three issues: healthy eating and physical activity (HEPA) standards in childcare settings; chronic disease prevention (especially type 2 diabetes); and health equity. While the Rye Y has been deeply and actively committed to community health for several years, these new partnerships have allowed the Y to find ways to connect African-American and Hispanic families with opportunities for healthier living.

JFK Principal Louis Cuglietto stated “JFK’s garden has been a success because of the hard work of our students, staff and families and the support of our community partners. We are delighted to be collaborating with the Rye Y to further develop our garden program. On behalf of everyone in our school community, thank you!”

Rye Y Executive Director Gregg Howells remarked “We believe that school gardens embody the spirit of the Community Transformation Grant, allowing children and youth to make the “seed to table” connection, learn about nutrition, engage in physical activity and develop healthy habits that will last a lifetime. We’re delighted to be able to support school gardens in Port Chester, knowing they will make a positive difference in the lives of children and their families.”