When students at St. Paul’s Collegiate eat pumpkin muffins or mashed potatoes in the canteen, there’s a good chance that some of the ingredients come fresh from the school’s garden.
"It’s surprising how much we can get from the garden," said Nick Verras, career and technology studies co-ordinator with Prairie Rose School Division. He and St. Paul’s vice-principal Marcel Houde are the main administrators for the school’s garden program.
First started in 2006 with funding from Manitoba Conservation, the garden consists of six raised beds surrounded by a chain-link fence, which helps to keep marauding wildlife away from the vegetables and herbs.
Verras said a wide variety of plants have been grown successfully over the years. Tomato and pepper seedlings are now being raised in a small indoor greenhouse fashioned by students and staff, soon to be transplanted into the garden.
"We have a hands-on, real-life program here," he said.
In recognition of the program’s value in teaching students about organic, sustainable food systems, the Southern Health Authority (SHA) recently gave the school a Healthy Living Together $6,200 grant to expand the program.
SHA healthy living co-ordinator Genevieve Lefebvre said these grants are available to schools, non-profit and community groups for projects to increase healthy eating, physical activity, mental well-being and become smoke-free and injury-free.
"In this case, the project addresses three risk factors: healthy eating, physical activity and mental well-being," she said.
Verras said he plans to get community members — and specifically seniors — involved in the garden, since it’s difficult to keep the weeds away and watering done during July and August when students and teaching staff are on holiday.
Lefebvre supports this initiative, saying "some community members may not have access to a garden, but could help the school over the summer and then get all the benefit that gardening can bring to your health."
Verras would also like to see picnic tables and benches placed on the grounds near the garden to create an outdoor area for St. Paul’s students and staff.