Growing Community in Chicopee- The Stefanik Elementary Garden

A diet full of healthy, nutritious, and fresh foods is a huge part of the key to success for children in K-12 public schools, but when we think about what public schools actually serve students, the food is usually the opposite – unhealthy, nutrient deficient, and highly processed. 
93% of students who attend the Stefanik Elementary School receive free or reduced lunch, more than any other school in the Chicopee district. ChicopeeFRESH, a local, healthy food initiative was launched in the fall of 2014 in order to teach students about the importance of local, healthy, and sustainable foods. 
The initiative has worked its way into the cafeterias at Stefanik Elementary School, serving up delicious, nutritious “home-cooked” meals made with produce and meats from local farms. UMass Dining has partnered with Chicopee in their efforts, collaborating on menu design and sharing purchasing insights with Chicopee Food Services.  

To allow students to make a more personal connection with their food, a small, 4 bed vegetable garden was installed at Stefanik Elementary School in June of 2015 with the help of Chicopee High School students and the UMass Permaculture 2015 Summer Garden Crew. 
The produce harvested from the garden is used in school-wide taste tests conducted by FoodCorps Service Member Greta Schwachman, as well as cafeteria meals. 
In November of 2015, the UMass Amherst Permaculture Initiative was awarded a $3,500 grant from Women for UMass Amherst to work with school staff and FoodCorps Service Members on  expanding and developing the Stefanik Elementary School Garden.  
Xochiquetzal Salazar, a Sustainable Food & Farming senior and Student Garden Coordinator for UMass Permaculture has acted as a consultant to the Stefanik Elementary School Garden this past semester, along with local food consultant Ryan Harb. Together, they have organized design charrettes with the garden’s stakeholders, prepared budgets, developed planting and harvesting schedules, and organized events to  invite UMass students to positively impact their greater community through this project. 

A long term design for Stefanik 

On April 28, UMass Permaculture hosted a Finals Study Break in which students potted herbs like chives, oregano, and mint from Franklin Permaculture Garden for donation to the Stefanik Elementary School Garden. These herbs will be the start of a new pollinator and herb garden set for installation at Stefanik.  

The UMass Permaculture 2016 Summer Crew plans to lend their hands on the ground at Stefanik this season before school gets out for summer.  
Interested in getting involved? Want to learn more about UMass Permaculture’s partnership with the Stefanik Elementary School Garden? Contact UMass Permaculture here