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Greenport wins $10,000 school garden grant

Greenport School District students and educators are about to roll up their sleeves and get their hands dirty to create a new and improved school garden.

Seeds of Change, a California organization dedicated to promoting community-based gardening programs, announced Wednesday the district has won a $10,000 grant to help it enhance its existing school garden program. Superintendent David Gamberg said Greenport is one of 12 grant recipients.

“Winning this grant will go a long way toward providing fresh, healthy produce for our students and community,” he said. “It will help make a positive impact on the diets and attitudes toward eating for everyone. It will also help provide enriching learning opportunities in all subject areas, from science and art to math and literacy.”

Mr. Gamberg also serves as superintendent for the Southold School District, which planted an organic school garden in 2011 that has acted as a model for other districts.

Greenport’s new garden will be larger than its current one, which is located behind the school. Mr. Gamberg said it will be relocated to the side of the front of the building so that it’s more visible — and thus accessible — to the community.

Lucy Senesac of Sang Lee Farms in Peconic, who serves as a liaison for local farmers and North Fork school districts looking to create gardens, said she’s thankful for the community’s support. She described Greenport’s school garden as a much-needed program, especially since the majority of students are from families with low incomes and most qualify for free or reduced lunch.

“There’s a need there for kids to be getting healthy food and bringing the food home,” Ms. Senesac said. “It’s cool that we were able to pool our resources and get it for the school that really needs the most help.

“It was the whole community — and the whole North Fork — voting for them.”

Ms. Senesac said she’s hopeful the district will hire a science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) teacher next school year to help develop school garden lesson plans.

Mr. Gamberg said the new garden will be accompanied by a summer camp program. There are also plans to create informational brochures, mailings and how-to videos and host cooking classes in order to “promote healthy eating in an effort to give our students a better opportunity to learn and thrive both in and outside of school.”

The superintendent also expressed thanks to the community for supporting the district’s campaign.

Following Seeds of Change’s recent online voting competition, Greenport was chosen from a group of the top 50 schools and community gardens vying for 24 awards. On Wednesday, the organization announced two school gardens and two community gardens had each received $20,000 grants. Meanwhile, 10 community and 10 school gardens — including Greenport’s — were awarded $10,000 each.

The only other New York State winner is located in Long Island City, Mr. Gamberg said.

Seeds of Change was founded in 1989 by a group of gardeners looking to make organically grown seeds available to gardeners and farmers while preserving heirloom seed varieties that were in danger of being lost due to modern agricultural advances. The organization awards grants to groups that support sustainable, community-based gardening programs designed to teach people about the food they’re growing and eating.

Ms. Senesac said the district is in the process of creating a timeline for the new school garden’s completion.

“Now we have the funds — and the momentum — to get this done,” she said.

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