Vertical gardens installed at Norristown Area middle schools – The Times Herald

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NORRISTOWN – Norristown Area School District is taking steps to help those impacted by food insecurity, with a new initiative starting in the classroom.
“This is an exciting opportunity for our students across the district,” said Superintendent Christopher Dormer.
Students, teachers, administrators, and community partners witnessed the unveiling of a vertical garden Tuesday morning at the Eisenhower Science and Technology Leadership Academy in Norristown. The agricultural technology will also be placed at Blockson and East Norriton middle schools.
The program was made possible in partnership with Thomas Jefferson University’s Office of Campus and Community Engagement and the Green Bronx Machine.
Dr. Charles Pohl, the university’s senior vice provost of student affairs, shared some striking statistics relating to nearby Philadelphia, noting that one in four households are considered food insecure in the city.
“It’s hit harder in this particular area. So it’s even more important that we’re launching this program in this school district,” Pohl said.
Carmina Taylor, Thomas Jefferson University’s director of campus and community engagement, agreed, as she’s observed the lack of accessibility to fresh produce at several Norristown area shops and markets.
As an advocate, Taylor returned to her native Montgomery County seeking to help those most vulnerable in the community.
“I just knew the acute needs … and I knew the issues,” Taylor said earlier this year in an interview with MediaNews Group, adding “we’re introducing solutions to food insecurity and food deserts in Norristown, and by adding the community partners, then we’ll have a holistic approach.”
Norristown-based CCATE and the George Washington Carver Community Center will serve as additional partners. The Community Vertical Garden Initiative will facilitate the growth of an array of fresh produce, according to Taylor, with vegetable planting expected to begin next month.
The vertical gardens are just one piece of equipment that will complement the planned learning spaces for the schools. Norristown Area School District was a previous recipient of around $1 million in funding from Fluxspace to revamp spaces in its 12 school buildings to include modern, STEM-based learning centers.
Don Conoway, a science teacher at Eisenhower Science and Technology Leadership Academy, said he’s excited for the garden to serve as another tool to educate his students.
“This program is going to increase their awareness and access to fresh fruits and vegetables — as well as the role those food groups play in their lives,” Conaway said.
But, he hopes the initiative’s impact will extend far beyond the classroom.
“We’re tremendously excited to have this program, and to partner with Thomas Jefferson University, the Green Bronx Machine and have this opportunity to provide for our students and staff and for the Norristown communities,” he said. “Not just for our students here, but for places where we can now reach out into the community.”
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