"The Kids Keep Blount Beautiful" at Montvale Elementary School Community Edible Garden

Keep Blount Beautiful - Montvale Elementary School Community Edible Garden

Keep Blount Beautiful (KBB) received a $5,000 Community Partners Grant from Lowe’s and Keep America Beautiful in 2017 to plant community edible gardens at two Blount County, Tennessee, schools.

The community gardens are part of KBB’s new initiative “The Kids Keep Blount Beautiful," a campaign implemented by KBB designed to instill in these young citizens a sense of ownership of their town.

"Why should young people have to wait until they are older to become socially active and responsible?" asked Alanna McKissack, executive director of KBB."If the youth of Blount County are given the opportunity to contribute meaningfully to their community and to be recognized for it, I believe they could spark behavioral change in our culture."

Starting in 2016, KBB began seeking grants to help bring beautification programs and projects to local schools. The initial project that began -- "The Kids Keep Blount Beautiful" -- was to plant native trees on two school campuses. This helped provide necessary shade for playgrounds as well as an outdoor learning environment.

Keep Blount Beautiful did not want to stop there. This year, it received a Lowe's Community Partners Grant from Keep America Beautiful and Lowe's for $5,000 to help bring edible community gardens to two schools in the area.

Since the Great Recession, Blount County school districts have experienced an increase in a number of students eligible for free and reduced-price lunches. In 2012, it was calculated that more than 6,200 students were on a free and reduced lunch plan. The number has only risen since then. Unfortunately, after the students leave school, and during the summer months, they do not always have the access to fresh fruits and vegetables. Keep Blount Beautiful wanted to help plant an edible community garden for two of these schools to help alleviate this problem. Students, teachers, and parents would be able to come together to provide healthier lifestyles and a more beautiful community.

The Lowe's grant provided an opportunity to bring a unique beautification project to two schools. The edible community gardens provide a unique learning experience as well as increased food access for Montvale Elementary School and Alcoa Elementary School in Blount County. The amazing teachers and staff of both schools came together to help us build and prep a raised bed garden for each grade level at their respective school. The next day, classes came out in shifts to help plant two unique fall vegetables in their grade's garden.

Montvale Elementary School was the first school to receive the raised bed gardens. Each grade was given a garden with two unique vegetables for them to plant and maintain in the fall and winter. Students will learn how to grow and harvest their own food. Vegetables such as kale, cabbage, spinach, lettuce and Swiss chard were planted on Sept. 21, 2017.

Almost 300 students came out throughout the school day to learn how to plant in their new garden and how to care for it. Each student had a different reaction to their assigned vegetable, but they all were filled with excitement to be responsible for helping their garden thrive.KBB will be completing the second garden with Alcoa Elementary School on Sept. 27.

By placing this program at schools, KBB is also able to provide a learning opportunity for the students and teachers.Throughout the school year, students will be able to learn—from the garden they helped plant!

"The 'Kids Keep Blount Beautiful' is a multiple-year project," McKissack added. "An edible community garden is just the next step in engaging youth with environmental improvement, not to mention beautification. For years to come, Blount County youth will have the responsibility to plant."