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Miami's Game-Changing Edible-Garden Program Reaches 51 Elementary Schools

WJ Bryan Elementary food forest courtesy of The Education Fund

Miami-Dade public elementary schools are looking a lot different as we wrap up 2015.

Paving the way for instilling healthy eating habits in South Florida's youth is The Education Fund's Citi Gardens program, which kicked off in 2007. The mission? To provide learning opportunities and fresh produce to serve in elementary school cafeterias and share with students' families via gardens on campus tended to by teachers and students.

The progress they've made thus far is staggering.

Twin Lakes Elementary food forest

The program encompasses 51 schools, with 51 edible gardens, of which 11 are food forests. Twenty-four of The Education Fund's gardens are supplying food for cafeteria cooks to be used in daily meals. The 11 food forests are holding weekly or bi-weekly harvest distributions to the students and their families.

It's also a fine source of learning opportunities for students, as the teachers use the gardens for lessons on topics ranging from science to history.

Big players are beginning to gravitate towards the program with Citibank helping fund the project. Timon Balloo, a chef at Sugarcane in Midtown Miami, is hosting a series of dinners using actual produce from the gardens. Kids were in for a special treat earlier this year when Miami Heat players Hassan Whiteside and James Ennis, along with Heat legend Alonzo Mourning, aided Jesse J. McCrary Jr. Elementary School students in creating a new edible garden.

"We have redesigned the landscape of 11 schools so that they are educational, beautiful and edible," The Education Fund's senior program manager Eddie Recinos said. "It is the immediate, overall improvement for these 11 Title 1 schools and our goal to ultimately do this in all the schools."

Ernest R. Graham Elementary

Dr. Carlos Finlay Elementary

Ernest R. Graham Elementary

Charles D. Wyche Elementary food forest

Laura C. Saunders Elementary food forest

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