Texas Border Business
PHARR, Texas – As part of efforts to educate students about the food they eat and inspire them to get excited about healthier eating, Pharr-San Juan-Alamo ISD (PSJA ISD) is continuing to incorporate its “Farm-to-School” initiative this school year at various campuses. The district is proud to highlight efforts in celebration of National School Lunch Week taking place Oct. 12-15, 2021.
Farm-to-school initiatives include a variety of Pre-K through 12th grade programs that bring local produce into schools and educate students about nutrition through hands-on learning.
According to PSJA Agroecology & Sustainability Supervisor Habraham Lopez, at PSJA ISD this initiative is made possible thanks to an interdepartmental collaboration between the PSJA Child Nutrition Program, PSJA Pathways Toward Independence Program (PSJA PTI), and campuses districtwide.
Currently, the PSJA Child Nutrition Program has been working closely with students in the PSJA PTI Program to expand the initiative and help start gardens at various campuses. The PSJA PTI Program promotes the continued development of vocational training skills and/or functional independent living skills to assist special needs students ages 14 to 21 in becoming emergent adults in the community.
“The students at PTI have been the heroes of our program since day one,” said Lopez. “As garden experts, they show students from all grade levels how to seed, plant, harvest, cook, and eat fruits and vegetables in a fun creative way.”
The Farm to School Initiative at PSJA ISD includes an approach that incorporates sustainability and school nutrition elements, according to Lopez. This allows students to make important connections to the food they consume daily as well as to the curriculum.
In addition to making valuable connections, students also take ownership by getting the opportunity to harvest and try the food they help grow.
At Berta Palacios Elementary in Pharr, the garden has made a significant impact among students and staff as they have been able to grow kale, peppers, cabbage, cilantro, watermelon, and even papaya, avocado, guava, and peach trees.
“Our students had a great experience learning from the PTI students and the Child Nutrition team. The most rewarding part was witnessing the exchange of knowledge and application among all the students,” said Palacios Elementary Principal Michelle Fox-Cardoza. “The garden has allowed our students the opportunity to discover the value in sustainable living experiences and make cross-curricular connections.”
In celebration of the 2021 National School Lunch Week, the PSJA Child Nutrition Program recently hosted an event where PSJA PTI students got to plant kale as part of the Farm to School initiative and learn how to make creative art using fruit and vegetables through hands-on instruction from PSJA Chef Rodrigo Puente.
According to the PSJA Child Nutrition Director Imelda Palacios, the Farm-to-School initiative is part of the district’s efforts to bring local produce into schools and teach students about nutrition through fun, experiential learning. Other initiatives include the Fresh Fruit & Vegetable Program from the Texas Department of Agriculture and partnering with local farmers and distributors to serve more local fruits and vegetables to students.