HOT SPRINGS - October was National Farm to School Month in the United States which promotes the use of healthy, local ingredients in school lunches. At the Arkansas Career Training Institute in Hot Springs, they are making the trip from farm to table much shorter by growing their own fruits, vegetables, and herbs right on campus.
The Master Gardners of Garland County partnered with ACTI by providing plants and seeds that soon began to thrive in their own garden and greenhouse. Jane Campbell, Director of Dietary Services at ACTI, oversees the project and also the 'Green Team' of students who help take care of the garden. Campbell and the Green Team grew cherry tomatoes, Roma tomatoes, assorted peppers, spaghetti squash and crook-neck squash that helped to bolster the cafeteria’s salad bar and side dishes.
“This entire project is a wonderful way for the community and the students to work together for the betterment of the nutrition and overall health of the students and staff at ACTI who eat their meals in the cafeteria. We always post signs indicating which vegetables were grown in the student garden,” Campbell said.
This dedication to providing both a learning experience and fresh produce for the school garnered the attention of the National School Lunch Program and the Arkansas Department of Human Services who recently honored Campbell and her students for their hard work.
“Jane and ACTI were selected out of 36 Providers because of their effort to go above and beyond. The work being done at ACTI is an example of what it means to reach for the stars,” said Mariska Jordan, National School Lunch Program Manager with the Arkansas Department of Human Services. “When Farm to School was first encouraged in 2016, Jane informed me that she was already participating. It was then that I realized Jane and ACTI were a step ahead of the rest. I was so intrigued by her dedication and all the awesome things being done at ACTI.”
A special ceremony to recognize the school was held at the school’s greenhouse followed by a lunch that featured vegetables and herbs grown by the Green Team. This project has gained not only the attention of the state but, more importantly, the school’s students. “A lot of our students grew up going through the drive-through, and now I’ve noticed a big move to our salad bar,” Campbell said. “I think it’s increasing their knowledge of nutrition.”
Check out our YouTube channel to watch the Department of Human Services’ video on ACTI’s garden and greenhouse