In addition to ushering in spring and heralding the return of daylight savings time, March is Women's History Month. But did you know that March is also National Nutrition Month?
School Garden Projects
The USDA has issued media advisories to mark the observance of National Nutrition Month and to profile successful USDA "...efforts to improve access to safe, healthy food for all Americans" (USDA Media Advisory No. 0014.16). Although no mention of school garden projects made the front page, the USDA acknowledges that they can play a starring role in attempts to focus children's attention on health, nutrition, and locally-sourced food. When integrated into the curriculum, school garden projects also create hands-on learning opportunities and invite community participation and inter-generational involvement.
Grants for Gardens
There is a variety of potential funding sources for school gardens. Certainly the USDA is one of those sources. This link offers a great starting point for researching USDA grant opportunities and other USDA resources related to school garden projects.
Some private foundations also invite requests for funding school garden projects. Be sure to check out Michelle Hansen's February 11, 2016 blog post, which profiles four garden funding sources.
How-To Guidance for Gardens
Just as important, some of the funding organizations also offer helpful informational resources. For example, in addition to providing funding, Annie's Grants for Gardens has a free how-to guide for creating five kinds of children's gardens. Annie's Grants for Gardens website also provides links to other resources related to planning and funding school gardens.
Planning Tip: School garden projects require planning, collaboration, time, effort, supplies, and money. The good news is that a lot of "ground work" already has been laid by others. And the Internet offers easy access to a wealth of how-to information for planning, jump starting, and maintaining school gardens. Here are a few links to get you started.
Gardens and Grants: Attracting Funders
I close by offering one final point regarding school garden projects. Funders who want to get the most bang for their buck usually like to know what grant applicants already have accomplished and what next steps they have planned. Why do funders like to work with organizations and innovators who already are headed in the right direction? Because that's one sign of commitment to the cause, along with in-kind contributions, project partnerships, and financial support from other sources.
For instance, if your school is considering applying for a USDA Farm to School Grant, you should know if your school or district is listed on the USDA site as actively participating in farm-to-school activities. Find out by accessing the results of the USDA farm-to-school census.
If your school or district is identified as participating in farm-to-school initiatives, you can highlight that detail in your application and describe the great things that already are happening. And if your school or district isn't listed, then you can find out if it's an oversight or if farm-to-school activities truly are conspicuous by their absence within your district.
Of course, if you would like some assistance in preparing a request for funding or identifying potential funders for school garden projects, we invite you to contact us.
Photo Credit: John Hritz