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School Garden: Students produce produce

By RENEE WEBB, Globe senior reporter
(Email Renee)

Students at Mater Dei School’s Nativity Center in Sioux City will have more fresh produce on their lunch menu this fall thanks to a school garden that was planted last spring.

The idea to plant a garden at school came from one of the school’s cooks after she applied for a state grant to fund the garden.

According to Kristen Malenosky, head cook at Mater Dei Nativity Center, the school received a mini grant titled “A Garden is the way to Grow” from the Iowa Department of Agriculture. Holy Cross School’s St. Michael Center also received a grant.

“The grant is offered for schools without gardens that are going to try to incorporate more fresh vegetables into their program,” she said. “We applied for it and we were one of 30 that received the grant from throughout the state.”

Prior to sixth graders planting the garden last May, they researched where the best plot would be and conferred with the parish pastor, Father Steven McLoud. To prepare for the garden, the students watched YouTube videos watering, weeding and season extension. A local master gardener came out and also gave them tips on planting.

By late July, the young gardeners were harvesting produce from the garden, which contains tomatoes, peppers, green beans and a variety of herbs – basil, dill and two types of parsley. They plan to use some fresh in school lunches and will freeze or dry the rest.

“We tried to pick things we knew we would use the most in our program,” said Malenosky.

Students have liked the opportunity to help raise the garden.

Alycen Malenosky, Kristen’s daughter who is a seventh grader at Mater Dei, said she liked being directly involved with taking care of the garden – watering and picking produce to be used for the school lunch program.

“A lot of it smells and tastes so good,” said the student, who noted she likes the health aspects of fresh produce.
Erin Cleary, seventh grader, said through her involvement it has helped her understand the work involved in gardening. But with many hands, she added, it has made for light work.

“It’s cool that we will get to eat these freshly grown vegetables – not all schools do that,” she said.
Greta Rosno, seventh grader, said she has learned that it’s better to eat fresh, homegrown vegetables. She also learned about the various herbs.

“I liked picking because there are such good smells and some of these are my vegetables,” she said.

Kennedy Bork, seventh grader, said she liked the aspect that students were involved in taking care of the garden rather than only adults.

“I learned that this is not just a summer project. We can use this for compost with the food we don’t eat – it can be a year-round project,” she said. “I like fresh food – it’s healthier, tastes awesome and you know you grew it yourself.”

Bork recommended that other schools start gardens “because it’s fun, easy to do and good for you.”

Connie Rosno, assistant cook who helped with the project, said that growing up on a farm makes her truly appreciative of all of the work Malenosky and the students have put into the garden.

“I was surprised to see how well things grew in a boxed garden,” she said.

Along with the fresh produce, the assistant cook commended the educational component of the program.
Over the summer, several students helped weed and pick produce.

Assistance with the project also came from local businesses through donations of wood and vegetable plants. Malenosky noted that a parishioner volunteered his time to build the garden box.

“We’ve learned what works and what doesn’t work,” said the head cook. “I hope to be able to do this again and maybe even expand.”

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