By Ruthie Losavio
LSU Ag Center
When the school garden at J.S. Aucoin Elementary started producing an abundance of cucumbers, LSU AgCenter area nutrition agent Jessica Randazzo saw the perfect opportunity to give back to the community.
“We had more cucumbers than we knew what to do with,” Randazzo said. “We reached out to the Council on Aging to see if we could donate the produce to their meal delivery boxes for seniors.”
The school garden provided more than 50 cucumbers to the senior feeding program.
“They’re already asking when I can bring more,” Randazzo said.
The St. Mary Parish Council on Aging senior feeding program has been delivering meal boxes to low-income seniors across the parish amid the pandemic.
“Our dedicated employees that have been delivering meals during this time of isolation were excited to also provide fresh produce,” said Beverly Domengeaux, St. Mary Parish Council on Aging director. “It put a big smile on all our seniors’ faces to have something fresh.”
Before COVID-19, J.S. Aucoin Elementary’s school garden club gave students the opportunity to grow their own food and try new recipes.
The program proved to be a huge success. Students were eager to try the vegetables they had grown. The school cafeteria even incorporated vegetables from the garden into school lunches.
“Two years ago, when I was asked if I wanted to be president of the garden club, I was hesitant to say ‘yes’ because of how the garden looked at the time,” said Tracy Gros, J.S. Aucoin Healthy Communities Coalition and faculty member.
“Once the garden was finished, we stayed after school and the students couldn’t wait to plant,” Gros said. “During the day I would go outside to see if anything was growing or needed watering, but the students were there before me.”
Despite school campus closures and summer vacation, the school garden continues to thrive thanks to the care and attention of the J.S. Aucoin Healthy Communities coalition and faculty volunteers like Gros.
The school’s Healthy Communities coalition focuses on improving health at J.S. Aucoin through community-led, sustainable physical and social environmental changes. The school garden is just one of those changes.
Funds from USDA SNAP-Ed, the Walmart Foundation and the 4-H Healthy Habits program have supported the garden.
For more information about the J.S. Aucoin Elementary school garden or Healthy Communities coalition, contact Randazzo at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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