You must have heard a lot about organic farming and people all around the world getting involved. Some have started growing their own fruits and vegetables on roof top while others have started implementing indoor organic growing techniques. However, there is one school in East Peoria where students are growing organic food for their lunch time. All the kids at this East Peoria Community High School eat fresh and healthy organic food as they grow tomatoes, kale, watermelon, summer squash, pumpkins and other vegetables and fruits. The food is taken to cafeteria after students complete the harvest.
The garden landscaping was a special project completed by special education class at the school while teacher Jody Tockes Hobbs turned it into edible landscape by planting vegetable plants into the landscape.
“There are certain plants … that look nice in landscaping but can actually produce food products. Some could be herbs. Some could be vegetables,” Hobbs said.
Hobbs is teaching environmental stewardship class. Everything he teaches in his class can be seen in action at his home. He recycles extensively and drives an electric car.
At EPCHS, he is happy to plant and grow organic produce, using no chemicals. The seedlings are started in the spring in the small green house at the high school. Then, Hobbs plants them outside in a courtyard area over the summer. Because there is an excess of seedlings, the environmental stewardship club sells them to teachers to gain funds to purchase seeds for the garden, which Hobbs found on an organic site online.
“The fruit that is being produced in the fall is being used in the cafeteria,” Hobbs said.Penny Stewart, the cafeteria manager at EPCHS, talked about the various ways she incorporates the foods into meals in the cafeteria.She said she serves the grape tomatoes and broccoli as a half cup side choice to students.
“We also used the kale that was grown mixed into the salad lettuce for side salads and the salad bar,” Stewart said. “Spaghetti squash was cooked and seasoned and served as a side as well. Watermelon was served on the salad bar. Pumpkins were grown for decorations for Halloween and Thanksgiving. Jalapenos were diced and made into a dip for the salad bar.”
Stewart said the most popular items with students were watermelons, grape tomatoes and the pumpkins for decorations.“They liked the fact they were grown at school and we used these items,” she said.
Growing a garden has its challenges. It takes time and effort and sometimes bugs, birds and other animals get to the food first. But with a combined effort between Hobbs, the students and cafeteria workers, they get a fair amount of produce. Hobbs also supplements the supply by bringing some of his own produce – grape tomatoes and jalapenos – from home.
I figured why not be able to produce stuff for our own cafeteria. I’d like to expand the garden and get more things in, but part of it, it’s just a matter of getting in to water over the summer,” Hobbs said, adding that the time he puts in over the summer is volunteer.
Read more about organic produce at this school on the next page…