Saturday, September 10, 2005

e-News: September '05

Hello Friends of Urban Sprouts!

Welcome everyone, new and returning friends, to our first fall e-News! I hope you all had a great summer, eating tasty fruits and veggies and enjoying the outdoors. Our Urban Sprouts school gardens are looking a bit wild and woolly, but school has started so they’ll soon be whipped into shape. That’s right! You heard me: we now have TWO school gardens in San Francisco that are part of the Urban Sprouts family, at our original Burbank site in the Excelsior and at Ida B. Wells High School on Alamo Square in the Western Addition.

Garden Update. We started classes last week at Luther Burbank Middle School and at Ida B. Wells. Both gardens are overgrown but looking alive! Burbank students will soon be able to harvest potatoes—in three different colors—and beans—a special Italian heirloom variety. Meanwhile, Ida B. students kept busy saving seed from many cabbages, bok choi, and poppies maturing in the garden. Next week the first Burbank after school Garden Club will begin meeting twice a week, and students from June Jordan School for Equity, the small high school sharing Burbank’s campus, will start working in the garden as well. This year we hope to see over 200 students getting excited about growing and eating their own food!

We’re Growing! Urban Sprouts received wonderful news this summer, as we were awarded a substantial grant from the California Endowment. This support allowed us to start off the year working in all three schools and to fund my position as full-time paid staff. We’ve really made it! Thanks to everyone who has helped to get Urban Sprouts this far.

Focus on Youth Health. With support from the California Endowment, General Mills and a partnership with UC Berkeley, we are tightening up our approach to improving youth nutrition and physical fitness through school gardens. These groups are working hard to combat childhood obesity and diabetes, which have increased dramatically in recent years. The Endowment reports that 30% of California youth are overweight, while last year’s school fitness test showed that over 50% of Burbank youth are overweight. On top of that, of Burbank youth, 90% failed to reach physical fitness standards overall. That’s why our work is so important! We are very lucky to have Eddy Jara, a nutritionist and graduate student at UC Berkeley’s School of Public Health, with us this year. Eddy will work closely with our program at Burbank, involving students and their families in helping youth to eat better and exercise more. This is part of a pilot study to examine how parent involvement in school gardens can improve youth health in the community.

Renewal & Inspiration. Our garden team from Ida B. Wells enjoyed an amazing 5-day school garden educator training at Occidental Arts & Ecology Center this August. I attended with School Principal Claudia Anderson and science teachers Dean Muller and James Pierce. We had a blast, filling up our hearts and minds with school garden preparation for the year to come, while soaking up the beauty of the farm and gardens at the Center, swimming in the pond, and eating delicious food (not to mention sneaking off to town for the famous Magna Burger). I highly recommend this training for all school gardeners. Check out our pics.

That’s the news for now! We have a Garden Work Party at Burbank in the works for October 15. If you have advice on building a garden shed or would like to help out, please contact me.

If you’re interested in learning more about my work in Ecuador this summer, visit this website of pictures. You, too, can volunteer with Shunku Llacta!

And don’t forget to visit Urban Sprouts on the web, still at

Take care, everyone!