Elementary school community garden project kicks off at AL!VE

Washington Elementary and Hayes Green Beach Memorial Hospital, with the assistance of several local supporters, are collaborating to kick off a community garden project June 3 at AL!VE.

The project is funded by a grant through Fuel Up to Play 60, an in-school nutrition and physical activity program founded by the National Dairy Council and the National Football League.

“This wellness program is different from others because it empowers students to take the lead in their schools by coming up with their own ideas to increase consumption of healthier foods and increase opportunities to be active for 60 minutes per day,” said Allison Haring, RDN, nutrition consultant with the United Dairy Industry of Michigan (UDIM).

Washington Elementary received a $2,000 grant from Fuel Up to Play 60. The students decided on a “pizza garden” theme. Deb  Dillon, MS, RD, is a registered dietitian at Hayes Green Beach Memorial Hospital. She is coordinating the garden project at AL!VE.

“We will also be applying for grants on behalf of Charlotte Upper Elementary, Parkview Elementary and St. Mary School to build additional sections of the garden in the next school year,” Dillon said. “They will also do themed gardens, like a salsa garden and a berry garden, and we hope to receive that grant funding later this summer.”

The future vision for the community garden, which will be called HARVEST, also includes an interactive learning center that could be built in the middle of the school gardens.

“There are opportunities for partnerships to make this a truly interactive, learning opportunity that many students, classes and schools can benefit from,” said Patrick Sustrich, AL!VE executive director.

In addition to UDIM, AL!VE and HGB, many local businesses have discounted or donated supplies, time and resources to help make HARVEST a reality. These include Fulton Lumber and Johnson Workbench, which are helping design and build the raised gardens, plus Trees ‘N’ Scapes, Inc., Randall Trucking and the Agricultural Science Program at Charlotte High School.

“This is truly a collaborative, community effort,” Dillon said. “We are excited to get this project kicked off so we can literally watch the gardens and the students grow.”

Community members can help get the project started by painting blocks during Be A Tourist In Your Own Town activities at AL!VE from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m., Saturday, May 31. Then the week of June 2, the gardens will be built so that the week of June 9, the students can transplant the 15 flats of plants they have already seeded and started growing.

Call AL!VE with questions or for more information about the community garden project at 517-541-5800. Learn more about Fuel Up to Play 60 at www.fueluptoplay60.com.