Growing Vegetables Part of Curriculum at East Harlem School

At an East Harlem school, the curriculum includes reading, writing and growing vegetables. NY1's Lindsey Christ filed the following report.

On a forlorn corner of East Harlem, there is a secret garden in an unlikely location: on the roof of a school. 

The garden connects to a classroom and cooking space at PS 7 and Global Tech Prep, where every student qualifies for free or reduced price school lunch. Obesity rates in the surrounding neighborhood are high. 

"In these classes, we learn how to grow food, eat healthily and cook," said Devin Taylor, a student at Global Technology Preparatory School.

It's all the creation of Edible Schoolyard, a nonprofit organization that has been operating a similar program in a Gravesend, Brooklyn school since 2010. It's an offshoot of a northern California initiative founded by activist chef Alice Waters, a pioneer in the farm-to-table movement. 

It took several years and $4 million appropriated by City Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito to expand into East Harlem. 

"This could be a lifestyle change. This could be a profession for these young people. It obviously changes their eating habits. It really address a lot of different touch points," the Council speaker said. 

Five full-time staff members, paid for by Edible Schoolyard, lead the lessons, where students learn things like how to grow garlic and herbs and turn them into pesto.

"We think the instructional focus of the school should include gardening," said Jacqueline Pryce Harvey, principal of PS/MS 7. "It's not a matter of it's extra. Nothing is extra. This is a part of the instruction." 

Edible Schoolyard initially hoped to open a demonstration site like this at a school in each borough, but that plan has been put on hold. Instead, the organization is launching smaller, less-expensive versions of the program. Four are already up and running, including at PS 109 in the South Bronx, where one staff member teaches in a more modest school garden. 

"We think every kid should have access to an edible education, should be getting their hands in the dirt, cooking food, eating real, healthy delicious food," said Kate Brashares of Edible Schoolyard NYC.

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