SACRAMENTO - State Superintendent of Public Instruction Jack O'Connell has announced that schools can now apply for $15 million in grants to invest in school gardens.

The Instructional School Garden Program funds were authorized by Assembly Bill 1535, authored by Assembly Speaker Fabian Núñez (D-Los Angeles). California public schools, county offices of education, and directfunded charter schools can use the grant funds to create, maintain, and expand instructional school gardens that can serve as a learning laboratory to support academic instruction. The funds are available this school-year (2006-07) to support instructional school gardens through June 2009.

"These grants will provide seed money for schools to develop a school garden or to expand existing school gardens for academic instruction," O'Connell said. "School gardens can be a vehicle for teaching standards-based science, mathematics, social science, and English-language arts courses, as well as garden-enhanced nutrition, health, agricultural, and visual art education. School gardens reinforce healthy food choices and lifestyles in an experiential learning environment. Instructional school gardens can nourish students' bodies and minds and also help students develop a better appreciation for sustaining the environment, maintaining our food supply, and prompting stewardship of our earth."

Less than one third of all California schools have instructional school gardens. The California Instructional School Garden Program's grant application is available to public school districts, county offices of education, and directfunded charter schools to apply for funds on behalf of their school sites. The application deadline for the first round of grant funding is Friday, April 20th. The electronic California Instructional School Garden Grant application and instructions are found on the California Department of Education (CDE) Web site www.cde.ca.gov/fg/fo/r9/cisg06rfa.asp.

Núñez said, "I grew up in an inner-city neighborhood. I represent innercity neighborhoods. Farms and gardens and fresh vegetables and the nutrition they provide can often be foreign things to a lot of kids. I believe school gardens will help young people understand the importance of nutrition and agriculture, so I have provided every school in my district with resource materials for developing and sustaining a garden. I hope every California school applies for the grant funding provided by my legislation. It's a seed worth planting." Public schools may apply for a grant of up to $2,500 for schools with fewer than 1,000 students enrolled or up to $5,000 for schools with 1,000 or more students enrolled. The grant funds may be used for supplies, equipment, and professional development for garden-based learning.

The CDE participates in an interagency work group to expand and enhance school garden programs. The work group is comprised of representatives of California Department of Food and Agriculture, Department of Health Services, and the California Integrated Waste Management Board. The CDE also works closely with the California School Garden Network, a collaborative of agencies, community organizations, and businesses that serves as a Web-based resource at: www.csgn.org.

California Department of Food and Agriculture's Secretary A.G. Kawamura said, "With more resources available for school gardens in California, I hope that gardens will be seen as an essential component of every school system. Teachers use garden-based education to teach a variety of subjects and gardens encourage physical activity, healthy lifestyle choices, and a connection to the earth that provides for our daily food needs. I am continually amazed at the power school gardens have to spark wonder in students and allow them to experience the miracle of food and fiber production."

"School gardening gives children an opportunity to learn where healthy food comes from and provides a hands-on learning experience," said State Public Health Officer Dr. Mark Horton. "It encourages students to increase consumption of and enjoy a variety of colorful and healthful fruits and vegetables. By instilling lifelong healthy habits at an early age, we want to encourage children to eat the recommended amount of fruits and vegetables and be active every day to reduce the risk of obesity and diet-related chronic diseases."

For further information please contact Mary Kaems, Office of the Assembly Speaker Fabian Nunez at 916/319-2537 or mary.kaems@asm.ca.gov

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