Are School Gardens Here to Stay?

In early October Michelle Obama added a paved walkway to the White House Garden. Additional stone and steel elements were added to the grounds so that changing or removing perhaps her most prominent achievement would be more noticeable, if not more difficult.

Gardening, and specifically school gardens, has been a major element of Let’s Move!, the first lady’s signature campaign. The first lady went on a national garden tour in April, skipping the five boroughs but stopping at nearby Phillips Academy Charter School in Newark. The garden, as well as Obama’s Let’s Move! Campaign, are a few of the many possible casualties of the upcoming election. And it begs the question – Are school gardens the new normal or are New York City school gardens in similar danger of going by the wayside as priorities change?

There are just under 600 school gardens in New York City’s 1800 schools, according to Grow to Learn NYC, a joint operation between GrowNYC, the city Parks Department, and the Department of Education’s Office of School Food (though the funding comes from the Mayor’s Office).

And players from various corners of the industry agree that the benefits of school gardens are numerous and well-known at this point. Physical activity, time spent outside, connection to food and healthier eating habits…the list goes on.

But does the increase in awareness, and the number of school gardens since Grow to Learn NYC was established in 2010, mean that school gardens in New York City are a permanent part of education in the five boroughs?

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