Hilsman Middle School, located on the eastside of Athens is undergoing a transitional year while the main building is being renovated. Students have been engaged in healthy food demonstrations, planting activities, work days and food reclamation under the Grow It Know It program so far this year. Other initiatives include a bi-weekly produce market, food pantry and composting program. Given the limited space in the satellite building, the garden has taken longer to establish. Thanks to the UGA PSO Day of Service volunteers Hilsman has two raised beds and a new state of the art compost bin. The school is also growing food in two wheelchair accessible beds that were constructed last year with the help of UGArden and the special education teachers at Hilsman.
Erin Seymour, the former VISTA and current Family and Consumer Science teacher, has been a champion of the Grow It Know It program encouraging student involvement and buy in. Erin has been instrumental in establishing efforts to provide access to fresh local produce grown by the Grow It Know It team. She has created a curriculum centered around sustainability and works closely with KatieStanhope, the current VISTA, to engage students in food labs that focus on nutrition.
Renee Martin’s Agriculture Science students have been awesome volunteers for Supervised Agriculture Experience work days as well as the produce market. Audrey Hughes, the 7th grade science teacher, has also been a strong faculty partner for the Grow It Know It program. Her Science and Energy Team students have helped with food reclamation efforts, planting activities and other sustainability initiatives in the school. Under the food reclamation program Katiewill have recovered hundreds of pounds of food that would have otherwise gone to the landfill by the end of the year.
Hilsman’s principal Utevia Tolbert has encouraged an initiative to establish a food pantry to address food insecurity among students and families at Hilsman. Funds raised from the produce market will be used to purchase non-perishable goods and hygiene products from the Food Bank of Northeast Georgia that will be available to eligible students and parents. Thanks to the efforts of the amazing faculty at Hilsman as well as Katieand the Grow It Know It team, Hilsman is engaging students in hands on experiences to enhance their health and academic success.
Long-term success of these programs involves widespread education and availability of resources necessary to reduce food insecurity and encourage positive, wholesome choices for a thriving and interconnected community. Anyone can get involved in the crusade against poverty and a throw-away culture! Whether you possess a certain expertise that could contribute to Hilsman’s gardens and sustainability efforts, or have no experience whatsoever, volunteers are always greatly appreciated. Hilsman is also accepting donations for the food pantry. For the opportunity to make a difference in Athens-Clarke County from the ground up, contact Katie Stanhope at email@example.com