Equipping students to grow in their faith, character and academics is our mission at Andrews Christian Academy. Many of our students are from refugee, immigrant and single-parent families, often making reasonable access to fresh produce a challenge.

A diet rich in healthy foods plays a significant role in preparing children to learn, and because these students are often unable to bring healthy lunches or eat balanced meals at home, we decided to start a gardening program.

The planting process offers many learning opportunities for the students, along with the benefits of being outdoors. Together we plant potatoes, squash, beets, carrots and other vegetables that can be harvested when school begins in the fall. It is rewarding to see students harvesting what they planted. Digging potatoes becomes a real treasure hunt, and even more enjoyable is eating what we grow. We use much of the produce for hot lunches, and what is left is sent home with the students.

This year we extended the concept with a tower garden using hydroponic gardening methods. We are thankful to the Collins family, who showed us how to utilize hydroponics to grow leafy greens all winter long.

Each week the students pick enough lettuce, spinach, kale and radishes to fill two big bowls for lunch. The best part is not a single student turns up their nose at salad anymore!