UAPB project teaches gardening to students at Pine Bluff schools

A gardening program aims to give students in Pine Bluff a new appreciation as to where vegetables come from.

The School of Agriculture, Fisheries and Human Sciences at the University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff has partnered with Pine Bluff schools to teach pre-K-12 students about growing vegetables.

Students at Forrest Park/Greenville Pre-K, Jack Robey Junior High School, Pine Bluff Lighthouse Charter School and Pine Bluff High School have already gotten their hands dirty, planting a variety of healthy vegetables that they will soon harvest.

Karleah Harris, an assistant professor for the UAPB Department of Human Sciences, started the project and is collaborating with principals and teachers from each school.

Raised beds were installed at each of the four schools, and children and youth participants have already been busy planting vegetables such as lettuce, tomatoes, cabbage and bell peppers.

“The gardens give students the opportunity to engage in inquiry learning and a platform to connect what they learn in the classroom to the environment and real life,” she said. “Students should be aware of where their food comes from, learn how to eat healthy and be a part of the planting, growing and harvesting process.”

Harris plans to expand the program using a $349,442 grant from the National Institute of Food and Agriculture awarded to UAPB and the University of Arkansas at Fayetteville.

The collaborative grant is titled “Healthy People Healthy Planet: A Food Desert Program at the University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff and Fayetteville, AR” (proposal number 2020-11200/award number 2021-38821-34712.)

The grant was developed in partnership with Kieu Le of the UA-Fayetteville, as well as Janette Wheat, Felicia Taylor Waller and Nicholas Romano, co-principal investigators at UAPB.

The project will support the development of curricula for programs at the pre-K-12 level in Arkansas to teach students how to grow their own vegetables, cook nutritious food and live in a healthy way. It will strengthen the capacity of the two universities to build partnerships in food deserts, communities in which people have limited access to affordable and nutritious foods, especially fresh vegetables and fruits.

Will Hehemann is an extension specialist – communications at the University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff School of Agriculture, Fisheries and Human Sciences.

KevKevondrick Freeman poses next to a raised-bed garden he helped plant.
(Special to The Commercial/University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff)

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