Indee students enjoying fruits of their labor from school garden - KWWL - Eastern Iowa Breaking News, Weather, Closings

Indee students enjoying fruits of their labor from school garden

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INDEPENDENCE (KWWL) -

School lunches are becoming more nutritious, thanks to the "Healthy, Hunger Free Kids Act" introduced by First Lady Michelle Obama.  Over the next few years, school lunch trays will be required to add more and more fresh foods.

The Independence Community School District is now taking a hands-on approach to help serve up those healthier lunches.

Tomatoes, peppers, squash, cabbage, and pumpkins are just a few of the items you'll find in one Independence garden.  What's unique--everything grown in the gardens was planted by kids, all students at the Independence Community School District.

"There's a big disconnect for kids knowing where their fruits and vegetables or just food in general come from, from the ground to their plates.  And we want to try to connect those pieces together," said Jessica Weber, Independence Schools Food Service and Farm to School Director.

This is the first year for the school garden, and it's been quite the learning experience, but students a thrilled to be a part of it.

"It was pretty fun, and it also gives you a good feeling knowing that you're going to help people be healthy," said student Ben Kelly.

Despite a summer drought, the garden's crops are shaping up nicely.  In fact, volunteers and students harvested their first batch of watermelons Wednesday and were stunned by the results.

"We've gotten quite a bit of food from it already, last night with 150 watermelons was just amazing," Weber said.

Now, students are getting to taste the fruits of their labor.

"Fresh food just tastes better," said student Brian Smith.

Friday, the melons will show up on every Independence lunch tray.  And as more fresh foods are ripe, they'll be added to the school menu, too.

"We want the most nutritious and freshest foods for these children.  And how can it be any fresher or any more nutritious than coming out of a local garden that is literally feet away from the children?" said Weber.

And once every student sees how good these fresh foods are, it's hoped they'll want to pitch in at the garden, seeing their school lunches go from the ground to the table.

The garden is located right behind the construction site for the new Independence Junior-Senior High School.  When the school opens next fall, it will include a new FFA program, which will make it easy for students interested in agriculture to volunteer at the garden.

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