MARGATE – Students at the William H. Ross Elementary School were recognized at the Board of Education meeting Wednesday, Feb. 3 for their work growing herbs and vegetables that eventually help feed the hungry.
Under the supervision of teacher Jessica Cuevas, students have been growing vegetables and herbs in gardens located at the city’s two public schools. Not only do they plan their garden and plant, nurture and harvest the bounty, they learn business skills selling their produce at the Margate City Farmers Market during the summertime and help people who are food deprived. All the proceeds from the sale of vegetables and fresh and dried herbs benefit the Community Foodbank of New Jersey Southern Branch.
This spring will be the school gardens’ 15th growing season, Cuevas said.
Her husband Bob Blumberg provides much of the muscle needed to build garden beds, till the soil with new compost, haul the bounty to the market, and food they purchase with the proceeds of their farm stand to the FoodBank in Egg Harbor Township.
“Kobe would be impressed with Bob’s work ethic,” Cuevas said.
At the end of the season, students take their proceeds to the nearest ShopRite store to purchase non-perishable food for the FoodBank.
Cuevas said the students earned $1,966 last summer, which they used to purchase 2,000 pounds of food for the FoodBank.
The students even cook some of their foods. Over the holiday, they cooked and served up lima bean soup to senior citizens at the Bloom Pavilion.
“It’s our mission to have a living classroom, teach children how to grow food sustainably, learn where their food comes from, and nurture healthy eating habits,” she said.
The Garden Club has a strong connection to the community, and students serve as ambassadors for the schools, Cuevas said.
Steve & Cookies By The Bay restaurant has collaborated with the schools on the vegetable of the month program. Chefs in the restaurant kitchen cook up samplings of delicious vegetarian dishes children at the Ross School enjoy once a month during lunch. There’s just one rule – the children may turn up their noses to the thought of eating a Brussels sprout, but they at least have to taste it.
Margate Community Farmers Market Manager June Martin attended the meeting to gift $500 to the school garden. Cuevas said the school would use the money to purchase new tomato cages, a wheelbarrow and compost.
Community Foodbank Food Panty Coordinator Deborah Fleisher was also on hand to thank the students for all their hard work and dedication to sustainable farming.
“I didn’t know the scope of what they do,” she told board members and parents. “I didn’t realize until today that they have their own garden, and that they sell their produce at the market to raise the funds to purchase the food they bring us.”
Fleisher said the FoodBank pantry serves 650-800 families once a month. Families can also shop the pantry shelves on weekends.
“Thank you for what your do,” she told the children.
School board President Cathy Horn thanked Cuevas and the students for their fine work after school hours.
“This is an example of how we here in Margate educate the whole child,” she said.