CHESHIRE, Mass. — Hoosac Valley High School is the recipient of a grant that will allow it to convert its abandoned tennis courts into a school garden and outdoor classroom.
Teachers Lindsay McGinnis and Amanda Brooks-Clemeno presented their plans for the Cornerstone Grown Project farm-to-school program to the School Committee on Monday night.
"I have worked in other programs before where we have built gardens and it has made such a huge difference in making a connection between students and food and also academic behavior for the positive," Brooks-Clemeno said.
Brooks-Clemeno said Hoosac Valley was one of four recipients of a $25,000 Henry P. Kendall Foundation grant to seed the program. She said the grant process took about a year and eight schools applied.
McGinnis said they will partner with the Wood Technology and Timber Framing class and, over the next few years, students will build the infrastructure needed to run the program. She said they will expend $14,000 from the grant to build three greenhouses, two supply sheds, ten raised beds, and a sheltered outdoor classroom.
"We wanted to involve the students on a lot of different levels not just growing food," she said. "So they would be able to eat healthily but we wanted them to build it, we wanted them to make choices of what is going to go into it so they are getting their hands dirty."
McGinnis said much of the produce will be turned over to the cafeteria directly connecting food grown by students to other students and creating healthy local food options in the district.
She said through summer programming and utilizing a student intern they plan to sell their yield at local farmers markets to help support the program.
"They will be part of the community and represent Cornerstone Grown and bring the proceeds back," she said. "So every year we can reinvest into the garden and buy whatever we needed from seeds...soil and supplies."
McGinnis said the funding is scheduled to last two years so sustainability is a question. She said they plan to solicit more grant opportunities and tap the community for support. This with potential profits from farmer's market sales will hopefully sustain the program for years to come.
Adams Community Bank also gave Hoosac Valley Elementary School a $750 donation. The money will be split between the grade levels at the school and will go toward purchasing school supplies.
"We figured that was the best way to spread it out so all students could benefit," Superintendent Aaron Dean said
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