At the start of the 2019-2020 school year, before shelter in place and school closures, PVF awarded a $500 Environmental Science Grant to Christi Grossman, a middle school science teacher at Life Academy of Health and Bioscience in Oakland, CA. Her plan was to engage kids in an after school program that taught them how to garden and produce organic food for humans and for pollinators. The motto was, “Food for me and food for a bee.”
Ms. Grossman reported back on their progress in February, stating that the 6-8th grade students had completed their investment in the soil and were ready to plant seeds.
“We had garden beds, but they had been left unattended for years. We knew we had to enrich the soil before we could successfully grow plants, so we bought hundreds of cubic yards of compost and mulch, collected cardboard, and got to work! It was a huge project for little bodies, but luckily they are strong and hard-working.
Students took shifts throughout the weeks to water our unplanted garden during their lunch break to break down the compost and integrate it into the soil. They were so responsible and the garden beds looked great!”
A few weeks later, Life Academy and the rest of Oakland Unified School District would close for the year, with students transitioning to online learning.
“I was sad for the kids, but also recognized that the garden beds would be ready when we returned to school, so not all was lost.”
But when Life Academy became a food distribution point for OUSD and saw hundreds of families coming weekly for groceries, Ms. Grossman realized that excellent soil could be put to good use.
Students are not allowed on campus, but she and a fellow teacher decided to turn the empty garden beds into a victory garden. Local businesses and gardening clubs, as well as the OUSD Food and Nutrition Services, donated abundant seeds and seedlings to the effort.
Far from being unused, the garden beds are fully planted with tomatoes, chili peppers, corn, beans, cucumbers and squash. Within a month, the vegetables being grown in the school garden plot will be distributed to the school community.
“Thank you for your generous grant, which kicked all of this off in the first place!”
PVF has always been about immediate response and extending a hand to those with the most critical needs. We have since expanded the Environmental Science Resource Grant Program to support the unexpected challenges of remote learning during this time and welcome your requests. Read more on eligibility and application process here.