March 23, 2012

Brand-new FoodCorps volunteer Marlene Yanez was looking for an opening, a way to acquaint students at Loma Linda Elementary in Anthony, New Mexico, with the connection between the sun, the soil, and the food they eat. With FoodCorps only a few months old last fall, space for a

schoolyard vegetable garden wasn't yet ready. But that didn't mean Yanez couldn't start planting. Her solution: microgreens, itty-bitty lettuce leaves and tangy greens grown in small planters.

For many of the kindergarten and second grade students, these 1-inch-high greens were the first food they had ever seen grow from seed. "Most students had not been around food that had just been pulled from the ground. And for that matter, most had never been around fresh vegetables," Yanez says. "Their questions had an air of skepticism and curiosity. It was obvious that the idea of eating something straight from the dirt seemed so odd to them."

When the microgreens were fully grown, about 10 to 14 days later, Yanez used them in a salad tasting. "The students were excited to eat something they had grown themselves. In a way, it takes away some of the mystery when they've seen the food grow from a seed to something they can eat," she says.

This spring, Yanez is leading her students on to bigger vegetables and a bigger garden, with the help of community volunteers. "The kids are already looking forward to a bounty of cucumbers, peppers, and beans."

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