Dozens of needy families at Hunter Elementary School will have fresh collards for Thanksgiving due to the hard work of the school’s young botanists.
Students in Hunter’s Blooming Botany elective class harvested Thursday the collards that grew from the seedlings that were planted in September and carefully watered over the past two months. The collards will be packed into between 50 and 75 Thanksgiving food boxes that will be given to families at Hunter, which is located on Davie Street near downtown Raleigh.
“It’s a small garden, but it’s good food going to people who need it,” said Briana Pelton, Hunter’s principal, as she watched 10 second- and third-grade students harvest the collards Thursday.
The harvest was the latest result of the collaboration that began in the spring between Hunter and the nearby Camden Street Learning Garden, operated by the Inter-Faith Food Shuttle. Families, including some whose children attend Hunter, grow food at the Learning Garden to help cut down on costs and provide healthier food options.
As part of the elective, Hunter students go to Camden Street to work in the garden and cook in the kitchen. Katie Murray, Raleigh urban agriculture programs manager for the Inter-Faith Food Shuttle, regularly visits Hunter to help students in the school’s garden, where produce also includes kale, broccoli, lettuce, spinach and beets.
Cries of “Miss Katie” rang out from the students when Murray returned Thursday for the harvesting.
Murray has helped turn the botany students into fans of fresh vegetables. She got the students’ mouths watering Thursday when she talked about having them come to the kitchen soon to make hummus for collard wraps.
After the harvest Thursday, students munched on collards and broccoli leaves. Murray said she’s amazed how the students even fight to eat the vegetable stalks that she’d normally compost.
“Broccoli tastes good to me,” said Tyson Vandyke, 8, a second-grade student.
Hunter is a magnet school that offers the gifted and talented theme, meaning students can pick from hundreds of electives. But the outdoor garden has helped make Blooming Botany more popular with other students asking how they can help out.
“It’s a different experience,” said Kristin Hord, who teaches the Blooming Botany class. “Kids are excited to learn about something new.”
The class is helping further Victoria Smith’s desire to become a scientist. Victoria, 8, a third-grade student, said she took the elective because she wanted to learn about plants. Now she has a greater appreciation for farming.
“When kids just go to the store they don’t know how it is manufactured,” Victoria said of produce. “So when you go to the store now you see how it grows and you know how much hard work went into it.”