The grassroots effort to get healthy food in schools

What is being done locally?

    Marbletown Elementary School in Ulster County is one school that is working toward improving the education of students on healthy eating in addition to improving the offerings in the cafeteria. From the Ground Up, a grassroots organization founded by three parents of students at Marbletown Elementary, began with a school garden that is approximate 20 feet by 20 feet that is tucked in the U of the building. Some of the produce the school has grown includes raspberries, lettuce, kale, radishes, potatoes, and herbs.

 “All of the classes use the garden. They do poetry about (the garden), they weed, they measure potatoes,” says Nicci Cagan, who helped begin From the Ground Up and is also the lead of farm to school for the Roundout Valley Growers Association. “We sold kale to local restaurants that allowed us to buy seeds. We grew lettuce that was served on Fridays with pizza.”


    According to Cagan, students help to plant the garden and with the help of teachers, parents and members of the community also help to maintain it. During the summer, harvesters can either keep the food or it is donated to a local food pantry.“It always amazes me when the kids come into the garden. They love being outside and connecting to nature,” says Cagan. “The kids come into the garden and eat the plants.”


    School gardens have been seen as a way to engage students in actively learning about healthier food options. “Planting a garden is an important step because it connects you to your food source,” says Cagan. “It helps children understand where something comes from and how much effort it takes. They are proud of the ownership of their own food system.”


    From the Ground Up has also been working on bringing fresh fruits and vegetables into their school cafeteria by focusing on farm to school concepts over the past year and half. They are also actively working with the school to change policies and bring healthier options into their school cafeteria in the upcoming school years. “We want our children to be strong and healthy. I believe that many people and groups are working on it,” says Cagan. “If more parents stood up and said what they wanted, we could change even more.”


Janine Boldrin is a freelance writer who lives in West Point with her family.

Find out more about healthy lunches here.