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Student garden project at Willow Creek aims to promote awareness of nutrition and diet

May 12, 2017 By Daniel Bendtsen, Staff Writer

The initiative is funded through a grant from Annie's Homegrown, an organic food subsidiary.

Students at Willow Creek Elementary School will begin planting a garden next month after the school received a $3,000 grant to increase "nutritional diet awareness in students."

The school received the grant from Annie's Homegrown -- an organic food subsidiary of General Mills.

Willow Creek was selected as one of 45 elementary schools to receive grant funding out of a pool of more than 1,000 applicants.

Mary Kellogg, an instructor facilitator for science, technology, engineering and math, said she applied for the grant funding because the virgin soil at Willow Creek seemed ripe for horticulture.

Students will plant sunflowers this spring, and the garden is expected to expand each year.

Kellogg said the garden will have an emphasis on edible plants native to the region. Sweetwater Gardens is helping to select plants that are both indigenous and low-maintenance.

"We'll use the failure of it as a learning experience too," she said. "Even if weeds take over the garden, is it really a weed if it's something edible?"

Although maintenance of the garden will be limited in the summer, Kellogg said she hopes to harvest some food each fall and "go through the full cycle of plants so that we can enjoy some of the fruits of our labor."

The school will also use some federal funds provided for American Indian education to help support the garden.

Kellogg said the program will teach young American Indian students about what wild food sources could be found in the region before Western expansion manipulated the landscape.

Kellogg said the garden will be open for the public to come visit, and she encouraged any local residents with expertise on indigenous plants to come present to her students.

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