Monday, October 15, 2007

Join Us and Cultivate Healthy Schools!

Dear Friends,

What do you think is the most urgent issue we face today? Global warming, youth obesity, national security, unemployment, urban violence . . . a few that come to mind. Did you know that school gardens can make a real difference in all these areas?

It’s well known today one in four children in the US is overweight [1]; this number is one in three at Urban Sprouts’ partner schools [2]. Our children are facing serious health problems unseen in previous generations before the age of 50 [3]. Urban Sprouts has shown that youth engaged in growing their own food eat more fruits and vegetables and teach their peers and families how to eat healthier.

Now, the threat of global warming is real, and school gardens inspire youth to teach their families how to protect the planet by driving less, eating locally-grown food, and keeping recyclables and compostables out of landfills.

In our grandparents’ generation, several million school children contributed to the war effort by feeding our country from school gardens, in name of the US School Garden Army [4]. Perhaps it’s time our children do the same, to protect us from the soaring cost of the oil that produces our industrial food crops and transports them to our door.

For all these reasons, Urban Sprouts helps urban youth to grow fresh, healthy organic food right at their own schools. By nurturing living plants, and by harvesting and eating fresh fruits and vegetables, youth are nourishing their bodies and cultivating a commitment to healthy living and a healthy environment.

This is why I’m inviting you, right now, to CLICK HERE and give a gift of $35, $50 or $100. Your support for Urban Sprouts will make a meaningful difference.

First of all, I want to tell you why school gardens are so meaningful to me. School gardens can completely change the way youth feel at school. Writers like Richard Louv wake us up to the reality that teachers have described for so long: youth suffer psychologically from their disconnection to nature.

Every year we interview teachers at our partner schools to get their feedback. A counselor from Luther Burbank Middle School told us:
This urban setting is dangerous and painful to live and work in. We live with regular shootings and unresolved murders. Behavioral problems, violence, depression and discouragement in youth come from the volatile urban setting, a result of living in an asphalt jungle that is disconnected from nature.
But school gardens can transform the urban environment. Two teachers from Excelsior Middle School told us:
The school garden is safe, an oasis of sanity from the painful experiences of the asphalt jungle. It’s a place where youth and adults can reconnect with the earth and nature even in the city environment. School gardens mitigate the cold city climate and change the physical environment of the urban school surroundings from looking like a prison yard, instead making it attractive, hospitable, inviting and cleaner.

If students don’t experience nature, they become their worst selves. It is very sad to see. In the garden, they smile and enjoy being a kid. We want our youth to leave here feeling confident. They are so vulnerable to other forces. In the garden, students laugh and run around, do work, use their adult strength, enjoy, and eat from the garden.
A counselor from Martin Luther King Middle School declared:
Just walking through the garden lowers a student’s blood pressure. Their whole attitude changes. It’s therapeutic and calming. Students who work in the garden improve their self-esteem, work better with others, become a better person, and show less anger and violence. The garden increases our sense of school community, identity and culture.
A six-year-old child, visiting the Life Lab learning garden in Santa Cruz recently, was quoted as saying: “This has been the best day of my life so far.”

This is why I’m writing to you today to ask for your help. I want to offer you the chance to join the Urban Sprouts community yourself, as a donor and supporter.

CLICK HERE to support Urban Sprouts today, and help us give youth a safe and natural environment that nurtures their bodies, minds and spirits.

Let me tell you a little more about us. Urban Sprouts was founded in 2003 by a group of teachers and volunteers at one middle school who wanted to make a difference. Since then, over 1,000 youth have worked, played and explored in our gardens. We’ve expanded to reach over 550 youth each year at four more public schools: June Jordan School for Equity, Ida B. Wells Continuation High School, Martin Luther King, Jr. Middle School, and Aptos Middle School.

Urban Sprouts is uniquely designed to support urban middle and high schools serving disadvantaged youth. At Urban Sprouts schools, over 60% of youth are from low-income families and over 95% are youth of color.

These are the schools most in need of school gardens: in San Francisco, only 15% of school gardens serve middle or high school youth and 30% of school gardens belong to economically disadvantaged schools. That’s why our model is so crucial.

Urban Sprouts’ garden-based education does so much more than improve youth health and nutrition. Our four areas of impact are:
  • Health & Nutrition
  • Ecoliteracy & Eco-Actions
  • Academic Performance
  • Youth Development
Urban Sprouts supports urban schools in these four ways:
  • Garden-based Science classes: Students experience hands-on lessons in environmental science and nutrition, garden work projects, and cooking, led by Urban Sprouts’ Garden Educators together with classroom teachers and volunteers.
  • Food System Connections: Urban Sprouts students in after-school and elective classes analyze where their food comes from and why access to many fresh and healthy foods is limited.
  • Garden Grub Family Program: Our new garden-based workshops for families! This year, we invite students’ families to the school garden to cook, garden, and make sure their children have access to healthy food at home, at school, and in the neighborhood.
  • Summer Program: We invite 20 youth each summer for two weeks of intensive gardening, cooking, eating and organizing to make changes in their communities, at San Francisco’s Garden for the Environment. Youth prepare a healthy lunch every day, and learn to eat better and protect the environment at home, too.
The community connections that grow from the garden are the most nourishing and meaningful results of all. We want you to join us!

By giving to Urban Sprouts right now, you will make an investment in the healthy future of our San Francisco youth and our communities, and you get to be a part of the crucial and fast-growing movement to cultivate school gardens!

Please join us by making a donation today! Click HERE to make a secure credit card donation online, or click on the "Donate Now" button at the top right of our blog.

Thank you very much.


Abby R. Jaramillo
Executive Director

P.S. There are more ways to join Urban Sprouts! To learn about volunteer opportunities, click HERE.

1. UC Davis News, 2/6/02, NewsWatch: Obesity,
2. California Department of Education, DataQuest,, retrieved 10/19/07
3. Dr. Dennis Styne, Pediatric Endocrinologist, UC Davis Medical Center, presentation, 4/4/07
4. Rose Hayden-Smith, “Soldiers of the Soil: A Historical Review of the United States School Garden Army,” Winter 2006, University of California, Center for Youth Development.

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