Stanton Elementary pupils get ready to harvest lettuce

HAMMONDSVILLE – Getting pupils at Stanton Elementary School to grow lettuce in the cold months of December and January was a wonder in itself, but it was a satisfying job for the 50 elementary school pupils who harvested the crop on Jan. 7.

The lettuce crop was the project of Sarah Cross, the new agriculture and natural resource educator at the Ohio State University Extension in Jefferson County.

“The students are so excited to have an opportunity to participate in hands-on science activities,” she said. “The OSU Extension is working with the Stanton Elementary School administration, cafeteria staff and students to make this project happen. This ‘Farm to School Program’ would not be possible without Leigh Johnson, Edison Local food services director, as well as Cynthia Bordash and Tammy Saphore, two instrumental science teachers,” she said.

Johnson made the project possible by applying for initial grant funds from the Ohio Department of Education, it was noted.

Lettuce was harvested in the school greenhouse and supplied to the cafeteria for lunch later on that January afternoon.

The pupils have been involved in four horticulture-based science classes taught by Cross.

“This isn’t just about growing lettuce. We discuss the importance of growing, purchasing and eating food locally. There have been several take-home messages for the students. This includes ‘how growing your own food can save you money, reduce pollution and promote a healthy diet.’ Therefore, eating and/or consuming local food is good for the economy, environment and personal health,” Cross said.

The “Ohio Farm to School” initiative is part of the U.S. Department of Agriculture national network. It encompasses many local, state and regional partners and provides youth with access to nutritious meals, while supporting local farmers and communities, according to officials. The program provides pupils with fresh, locally grown food, as well as an educational opportunity related to agriculture, according to Cross.