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Garden program at Franklin Junior High helps fill need in food desert

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Posted at 1:34 PM, Feb 09, 2023
and last updated 2023-02-09 14:36:27-05

FRANKLIN, La. — In January 2021, Franklin Junior High School wanted not only for students to return to pre-pandemic normal but to elevate the students' learning experiences. The mission: to provide new hands-on learning opportunities.

Principal Ina, staff member Stacy LaFont and staff member Norma Troquille were able to make their dreams a reality. Made possible with funding provided by the St. Mary Parish School Board, a home economics room and greenhouse were installed on Franklin Junior High's campus as part of a garden-based nutrition project.

The home economics room, furnished with five kitchen stations with sinks, counter space, and ovens, teaches students the basics of safe, healthy cooking. Students have also used the greenhouse to grow produce from seed for their school garden.

LSU AgCenter SNAP-Ed Nutrition Agent Jessica Randazzo has partnered with Franklin Junior High to teach garden-based nutrition lessons to 6th through 8th graders.

According to Randazzo, her goal is to provide the adequate tools students need in order to build life-long healthy habits. Emphasized skills like scratch cooking (real food made with real ingredients) and best garden practices are especially useful when in the midst of a food desert.

“Teaching students how to grow their own fresh produce has become even more important after the local grocery store closed in 2022, making this area a food desert,” said Randazzo.

When asked about participating in the garden program, 7th grader Destanee Figueroa said, “So far, I love gardening. It motivates me to try new vegetables and fruits I’ve never tried before. I love how I can learn new things that can be helpful or can help with things I struggle with like science.”

The Walmart Healthy Habits Grant provided additional funding to purchase garden equipment for the school such as shovels and hoses.

For more information about garden-based nutrition lessons from the LSU AgCenter in St. Mary or St. Martin parish, contact Randazzo at jrandazzo@agcenter.lsu.edu or (337) 828-4100.