Tampa, FL (Nov. 3, 2015) - Hillel Academy is not new to gardening. The school has had an Earth Box vegetable garden for many years but now the school has a true farm program and it the first school-based TUB Farm hydroponic farm in the Tampa Bay area!
Hillel Academy partnered with TUB Farms, Tampa Urban Benefit Farms, a local non-profit organization that gives students multiple learning opportunities while providing fresh produce to food insecure members of our community. The school is the first school in a pilot program designed to connect “farmer” schools with beneficiary agencies that will distribute the vegetables and herbs to their clients while the students learn about innovative agriculture and grow systems.
TUB Farm founder Nava Kirk approached Head of School Amy Wasser with the idea of placing a TUB Farm on school property. It was a natural choice to reach out to Hillel Academy, Tampa Bay’s premier community day school, as Ms. Kirk is a school alumna. Middle School science teacher Amy Basham serves as Hillel Academy’s liaison and TUB Farm manager.
According to Ms. Kirk, “Hillel Academy is a progressive school that I knew would embrace a program like TUB Farms. The incredible reception from students and faculty is more than we could have hoped for. We understand that teachers are incredibly busy, so we are designed it as a program to assist teachers with maintaining the TUB Farm, as well as to provide guidance on curriculum, give tours to students and coordinate the donation of the vegetables.”
“We are only as healthy as the food we put into our bodies, and for far too many in our community who rely on food assistance, the access to truly healthy nutritious food is extremely limited,” says Ms. Kirk. “Students at Hillel Academy and TUB Farms would like to be part of the solution.”
The first donation is expected to be made on Nov. 6, 2015 to HCFPA, Hillsborough County Family Partnership Alliance, which helps people in the dependency system including foster parents and relative caregivers. Vegetable donations from Hillel Academy will directly benefit those who depend on the HCFPA food pantry.
“HCFPA is excited about the new partnership with Hillel Academy and the TUB Farms. We look forward to sharing fresh fruits and vegetables with the foster families and the needy of our community that come to our food pantry to a receive food on a monthly basis,” says Kim Hernandez, HCFPA President.
The TUB Farm is a school-wide endeavor at Hillel Academy. Each class attended hydroponic farm lessons and planted its own tower of 16 plants which they monitor frequently. The TUB Farm vegetables were grown from both seed and seedling and almost every student has planted his or her own seed or sprout. Fall crops growing at Hillel Academy include cucumbers, swiss chard, lettuce, squash, green beans and basil.
“In my opinion,” says Mrs. Basham, “growing food crops contributes an incredibly important aspect to a child's education. In today's world of processed and factory-produced everything, students often forget that much of their food originated as a plant that can be grown, harvested and enjoyed. All branches of science can be taught through the simple process of growing a vegetable garden. When students are able to contribute to growing vegetables, they are able to connect with the science, see its validity in their lives, and hopefully learn to make wise science-based food choices as they grow up. If we can add an element of donating the vegetables to serve our community, the experience becomes even more meaningful.”
TUB Farms worked with Urban Oasis Farm Technology to design the school’s hydroponic farm. By studying and working with a hydroponic farm the students are learning that hydroponic growing methods do not use synthetic chemicals to treat bugs and disease. The system uses a sterile, reusable growing medium, coco coir, instead of soil which is sterile, sustainable and renewable. With the system, the desired amount of food is delivered to the plant’s roots.
Hillel Academy students receive more than a science education as they work on the school’s TUB Farm. They practice one of the most important concepts in Judaism, tikkun olam, repairing the world. Community service is very important to the community day school’s students of all ages. Donating school-grown crops to HCFPA is a perfect fit.