AVONDALE — Some students will soon dine on fresh vegetables grown and handpicked in the district's new solar greenhouses.
Pueblo School District 70 installed four solar greenhouses at Avondale Elementary School, Pleasant View Middle School, Beulah School of Natural Sciences, and Rye High School as part of their Supplemental Environmental Project. The district plans to integrate the greenhouses into a number of nutritional and educational efforts.
"We have a science lab where we started all of the plants. We have these little pods, and we put the seeds in there to let them grow and once they were big enough, we put them here in this greenhouse," said Alfredo Munoz, Fifth Grade at Avondale Elementary School.
Munoz is all too familiar with growing plants since he helps out on his family farm.
"My mother's garden always dies so I wanted to learn new and better ways to grow plants," said Munoz.
Eating fresh produce is very important to him, but so is knowing where it comes from.
"We don't know what other chemicals that farmers put in their plants to make them grow, and these are healthy," said Munoz.
"I think it is important just so you know what you're getting and what's healthy for you," said Laci McClure, Fifth Grade at Avondale Elementary School.
McClure and Munoz is a part of the after school program that is working to grow fresh produce for kids across the entire district. The district works with the Nutritional Services Department to produce, harvest, and transport the food from the greenhouse to the food preparation sites. Lettuce, legumes, carrots, radishes, and vine vegetables will then be available for students within their school cafeteria.
"It is teaching us to be more responsible because if we don't water or do things for them, they won't grow. It is teaching us to be patient because they don't grow fast," said McClure. "It is nice especially knowing what we learn here will help us when we're older."
According to District 70, the greenhouses will help the district reach a number of goals. First, introduce students to the local and sustainable food movement. Second, give students hands-on experiences in agriculture. Third, help educators develop instructional materials and teaching methods in agriculture to help students see the connections between agricultural practices and human health, nutrition, sustainability, community, and the environment.
"We are grateful District 70 invested in this for the kids and the community. The obvious value of the greenhouse is the integration of math, science, and the arts. As a STEM school, we appreciate the opportunity to have the kids work within the greenhouse and practice that within the classroom and after school," said Principal Carlos Perez, Avondale Elementary School.
Local foods are not offered regularly in school cafeterias, but increasing the availability is proven to help healthy eating among kids. Foods that are grown in controlled environments such as greenhouses can also help lower costs for fresh and healthy local food for our school.
"Next year we're going to focused on lettuce, green peppers, and tomatoes. Those are the best growers for us, and they grow faster. We'll pick certain days where the produce in the cafeteria will be produced by our greenhouse," said Perez.
"Fresh food that doesn't have to be shipped, that is already at the school. Saving gasoline and saving the earth," said Munoz.
The district hopes to supply between 25lbs - 50lbs of produce a week between all locations. The goal is to supply building cafeterias with daily portions of their served produce.