Built on site in November and planted from seed in December, the Pelican Marsh Elementary garden cared for by second grade students, parent volunteers and teachers now has an abundant harvest that’s ready for early picking.
Students will harvest a portion of what’s ready now in the school garden and donate lettuce, kale, bush beans, onions, and herbs to Naples Harvest, an organization that collects backyard donations of fresh fruit and vegetable for area emergency food pantries.
The students’ harvest will benefit Grace Place in Golden Gate, which provides food aid to more than 100 needy families each week from 1 to 5 p.m. on Fridays. Families can only pick up food bags once every two weeks, so the donations from Pelican Marsh and Naples Harvest will go to more than 200 needy families. Naples Harvest supplies an average of 300 to 500 pounds of citrus fruit and other produce to Grace Place each week.
Patty Calloway, who organizes the emergency food pantry program at Grace Place on Fridays, says the donation from Pelican Marsh second grade students will be greatly appreciated because many families can’t afford to buy fresh fruit and vegetables.
“Everybody around here pretty much has no work or is just barely making it,” Calloway says.
About the Pelican Marsh garden:
The on-site Pelican Planters garden at Pelican Marsh Elementary is a grassroots community and school partnership that aims to teach children about the benefits of growing fresh produce in a garden.
Second grade students benefit from hands-on participation growing food and learning about the nutritional benefits of fresh vegetables, fruits and herbs.
Students engage in weekly multidisciplinary garden lessons that are linked to Florida Sunshine State Standards. These lessons, predominantly written or adapted by a parent volunteer coordinator, include hands-on activities in math, science, social studies, health and language arts.
Specific lessons conducted so far include lessons about plant needs, soil composition, composting, insects in the garden, and edible plant parts among others. The lessons support teachers’ second grade classroom objectives by complying with Florida Sunshine State standards and FCAT preparation that teachers must cover. Parent volunteers in each of seven classes have conducted near-weekly lessons since January.
The garden, with donations from area businesses and parents, was built on site in November near the school playground. The students planted donated seeds in December. The garden contains 6 raised beds and numerous garden containers. Plants include tomatoes, peppers, lettuces, bush beans, carrots, radishes, eggplant, broccoli, edible flowers, and numerous herbs.
During weekly tastings of of the food they have grown, students learn and experience the nutritional benefits of eating fresh vegetables and adding variety to their diet. The garden uses no pesticides or commercial fertilizers and, although not certified, uses organic gardening methods.
The garden wouldn’t be possible without materials, funds and labor from the following sponsors: EcoLogic Plant Care, Cotter Construction Co, Naples Harvest, Food & Thought, Fundamental Health Solutions, Junior League of Lee County, Home Depot, Outside the Box Studio, ImageProjektions, Buckley’s Nursery, Annie’s Garden, Dutchkinz Traditional Dutch Delights, Naples Honey Company, Fitness Inside & Out, Gina Edwards & Associates and ECHO Farm. For more information and photographs of the garden see www.pelicanplanters.com
About Naples Harvest:
Naples Harvest is a charitable organization that collects fresh fruit and vegetable donations from area residents’ backyard harvests. Area residents have generously donated more than 15,000 pounds of fresh fruit and vegetables — predominantly citrus fruit and mangoes — to Naples Harvest since its founding in November 2008 as a mission project of North Naples United Methodist Church.
Naples Harvest volunteers coordinate and pick fruit donations and transport the fruit to area emergency food pantries including Grace Place, St. Matthews House and others. Through Naples Harvest, area residents have supplied the Grace Place food pantry with more than 5,000 pounds of fresh fruit since December. Naples Harvest purchased left over seedlings from the Pelican Marsh garden sale for a newly built onsite community garden at Grace Place.
To donate fruit to Naples Harvest, sign-up online at www.naplesharvest.com, email firstname.lastname@example.org or call 293-3640. Contact Naples Harvest if your charitable organization would like to receive fruit donations for needy area residents.