President Obama signs the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act of 2010

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

If you remember what grade school was like, I’m sure that you remember your lunch period. While it’s known that some parents pack their child a lunch to bring to school, many often buy their food from the school cafeteria, while others go hungry because their parents might not be able to afford to pay for their meal(s). First of all, no child should ever go hungry, and secondly, all of our children should have access to healthy and nutritious foods at school and out of school. The Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act of 2010 aims to ensure exactly the latter!

If you’re asking why this bill is groundbreaking, just take a look at some of its highlights:

• National Nutrition standards for all food sold in schools.
$40 million for a Farm-to-School initiative to create school gardens and bring locally grown foods into cafeterias.
• Thousands of more children automatically eligible for free and reduced price school meals (including Foster children), and huge program expansion of afterschool meals for At-Risk Youth.
$4.5 billion in New Nutrition Funding for Children (over 10 years)

With childhood hunger on the rise in the United States, this act is an important measure on many parts, as it not only will provide hungry children with food, but education about eating healthy and having those healthy choices available at school. There are also many studies that show a clear link between childhood obesity and the consumption of foods saturated with fat and sugar-sweetened beverages.

If we want our children to stay healthy, to be well fed, and to be able to function in and out of school, it’s clear that the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act of 2010 is a much needed step towards achieving this.

Click here to learn more about the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act of 2010.

TGC News: FAO’s new School Garden Teaching Toolkit!

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

FAO’s new Teaching Toolkit

The Food and Agriculture Organization has just released a new companion guide to the “Setting Up and Running a School Garden” manual, which features eight comprehensive, step-by-step lessons for teachers to implement in their class-gardens.

The lessons contain information on everything from garden planning and produce marketing to seed sowing and composting. Each lesson is divided into informative sections: teacher’s notes, objectives, technical content, lesson preparation, lesson activities, lesson follow-ups and guides all geared toward a hands-on learning experience.

The goal of the lessons is to try and “engage learners actively and encourage them to observe and experiment. The reflective element of experiential learning – monitoring, reporting, recording, reviewing, discussing, and listening to others – is built into the lessons.”

Above all, the lessons force students to consider the quality of their own diets, but they also enable the students to make healthy changes to their eating habits. This is a must-read for teachers who have or are considering starting a school garden. It will save hours of logistical planning and provide an excellent jumping-off point for teachers’ own lessons in gardening.

Learn more about the guide whose creed is…

"Tell me, and I will forget.
Show me, and I may remember.
Involve me, and I will understand."

Attributed to Confucius, 450 B.C.

Click here to see an online version of The Teaching Toolkit


Click here
to download a PDF file of The Teaching Toolkit

In the News: Herbicide-Resistant Weeds

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

In early May, we posted a story about herbicide-resistant weeds on the TGC blog. Concern has continued to grow throughout the scientific community, and the Associated Press recently published an article on Roundup-resistant species.

Introduced in the 1970s, Roundup has long been a staple tool of pest management for American farmers. Though Roundup is a chemical herbicide, it was widely considered less toxic than its predecessors. It also allowed farmers to reduce tilling, a significant step toward curbing erosion and fuel consumption. As many as ten plant species have evolved to survive Roundup application, however, and many are concerned that farmers will turn back to less eco-friendly methods of weed management.

Monsanto, the agricultural company that developed Roundup, also introduced Roundup-resistant seeds. The seeds allowed farmers to spray without threatening young crops, and they now account for the vast majority of American soybeans, cotton, and corn. Because Monsanto's products were initially so successful, farmers were able to reduce annual herbicide application by 57 million pounds in 11 years.

The article also cites David Mortensen, a weed scientist at Penn State University who believes more dangerous pesticides could soon rise to prominence. Dicamba and 2,4-D are likely to fill the void, Mortensen said, and both are known to drift beyond the site of application.

Bill Freese, a chemist with the Center for Food Safety, is quoted as saying that America faces "a pesticide treadmill." The more farmers rely on a single herbicide formula, the greater the likelihood that weeds will evolve to meet the challenge.

Click here to read the full article in USA Today.

Click here to read our original blog post on the topic, dated May 4, 2010.

Recipe Box: Sassy Salsa

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

From Colonial Trail Elementary School

TGC garden site in Glenn Allen, Virginia (USA)


2 ½ cups chopped tomatoes
½ cup chopped jalapeƱos (without seeds)
½ cup chopped green peppers
¼ cup chopped onion (yellow, white or red)
½ tsp crushed garlic
¼ tsp lemon juice
¼ tsp white vinegar
Salt & black pepper to taste

Mix all ingredients in a bowl. Serve chilled with tortilla chips. Enjoy!

Compost in the City

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Last week, The Washington Post printed a column on the value of compost in urban environments. The following question was sent to Nina Shen Rastogi, an environmental writer based in Brooklyn, New York and columnist for Slate Magazine:

“I live in an apartment in the city with zero outdoor space, and I don’t have any plants that would benefit from compost. Is there any reason at all, then, why I should be composting my food scraps?”

Rastogi replied that composting is important for both rural and urban communities, and emphasized that it can easily be accomplished within the confines of an apartment. Electric composters can simplify the task for cautious roommates, and these units generally consume only a minimal amount of energy.

Allowing food to decompose before throwing it away can reduce its landfill volume by 80 percent. Composting is also beneficial from the perspective of climate regulation, as properly composted food scraps produce only water and carbon dioxide as byproducts. When left in oxygen-depleted landfills, food waste often creates methane–a greenhouse gas with over twenty times the heat-trapping potential of CO2.

If you’re interested in composting but unsure of the next steps, Rastogi recommends contacting local schools and community gardens. These organizations may appreciate compost donations, and they can also provide tips and tricks along the way. In New York City, residents are free to place homemade compost around any trees on the street … Check local rules and regulations to make sure you distribute compost properly in your community.

Rastogi also mentions the benefits of vermicomposting. For more information on this technique, check out yesterday’s blog post (6/28).

Click here to read Rastogi’s column in The Washington Post.


Monday, June 28, 2010

Vermi-composting, also known as worm-composting, is the process of using worms to break down waste into soil-enriching compost. The worm castings contain humic acids that enrich soil and act as a natural pesticide. Worm-composting is easier to maintain than your typical outdoor compost bin system (the worms do all the work for you), and it proves environmentally friendly by reducing the waste that would otherwise go to landfills.

To get started, follow these instructions from Nancy Kreith, a master gardener with the University of Illinois Extension, and TGC’s Chicago-area Coordinator …

Step 1: Find a bin

Start with a 10-gallon (38-liter), dark, covered container. Drill about 50 1/8” holes into the container’s lid.

Step 2: Create the bedding

Shred newspaper. (Don’t use glossy paper, because the worms won’t be able to digest the wax.) Moisten the shredded paper with water until it feels as wet as a wrung-out spunge. Finally, add one pound of red wrigglers (approximately 1000 worms) and a handful of soil.

Step 3: Feed the worms

Do not feed the worms more than they can consume–1/2 pound to 1 pound of scraps per day. Worms are capable of breaking down the following food scraps: fruit and vegetable peels, crushed egg shells, used coffee filters with grounds, and used tea bags. Avoid any form of animal bones, meat, fish, poultry, mayonnaise, cheese, and butter.

Step 4: Maintain your compost

Add more shredded paper if the bedding becomes too wet, and add water if it becomes too dry. If you notice worms on the walls or lid of the bin, your bedding mixture may be off balance. The key to keeping happy worms is feeding them raw kitchen waste on a regular basis.

Step 5: Harvest your compost

The food and newspaper should be fully decomposed after about three months. It’s time to separate the worms from the compost when you see only trace amounts of food in your bin. What remains should be a dark, rich, soil-like matter.

For more information on vermicomposting, check out the TGC summer newsletter. Not on our mailing list? Send an email to with the subject line “Subscribe to Newsletter.”

Eating Local: Find a Farmers Market!

Thursday, June 24, 2010

You can find names and locations — both of markets and the farms themselves — at Even if you live in an urban area, you might be pleasantly surprised by your local food options. Different vegetables have different growing seasons … what’s your favorite vegetable of June?