Lions Farm-to-School Garden
Lions Cultivate Healthy Eating at School
Home and community gardens have been increasing in popularity, as people become more aware of the benefits of local organic produce and the importance of eating healthy. Lions in Whitefish, Montana, wanted to start a special project that gave back to the community while addressing issues such as childhood obesity and diabetes. They started a farm-to-school garden that has brought the entire community together while teaching children and families the importance of healthy eating.
Whitefish, Montana, USA
The Lions Step In
Through Lions donations and fundraisers, as well as support from local businesses and community members, the Whitefish school district is able to provide fresh vegetables on students’ lunch trays every day. Lions and other Whitefish residents contribute the time and labor needed to maintain the garden. Local businesses donated money, equipment and supplies in order to give back to the community and its youth.
From Farm to School
Students in Whitefish also contribute to the garden, helping harvest the vegetables and learning more about where their food comes from. Once harvested, the vegetables are integrated into school lunches – a salad bar accompanies pizza day; a baked potato bar is available with all the fresh fixings; zucchini and squash are grated into soups, sauces and breads; and excess veggies are blanched and frozen for later meals. Anything that can’t be used or frozen right away is sold, and the proceeds go back to the school’s food program. The students enjoy the healthier options, and they start to understand the value of community service at an early age.
Type 2 diabetes is the most common type of diabetes, and it can be prevented through a healthy diet and active lifestyle. The Whitefish Lions’ farm-to-school garden produced approximately 700 to 800 pounds of potatoes, among other vegetables, during the first year. By providing healthier lunch options for students, the Lions are helping to fight diabetes and childhood obesity so kids can lead happier, brighter futures.
Tips and Tools
Start a Garden in Your Community
Where do you get the resources to maintain the garden? »
The Lions donate and raise much of the funds used for equipment rentals and maintenance, while community members and businesses have donated everything from time, money, machinery and seeds. When people know they are giving back to the community and their children, they are eager to lend a helping hand.
What vegetables do you grow? »
Keep it simple. Vegetables such as potatoes and squash are easy to grow and last a long time. They can be incorporated into a variety of different dishes, and freeze well so they can be saved for later use long after harvest.
How do you engage the community? »
Getting involved in the local school program engages teachers, school administrators, students and parents. Reach out to local businesses that want to give back to the community. At the end of the season, the Whitefish Lions thank the community by hosting a garden party and serving their farm-fresh foods.
"The garden not only teaches students better nutrition and prevents diabetes, but it also shows kids how to get involved in the community. "
Whitefish Lions Club President
"It takes a lot of extra work, but it’s well worth it to be able to use fresh, organic produce that was grown locally."
Whitefish Public Schools Food Service Director