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Garden to table: Belfast students growing their own healthy lunches

The program is 100% self-sustainable with the students doing everything from composting, growing the vegetables, packing them up, and selling them to their school's cafeteria and the Belfast co-op.

BELFAST (NEWS CENTER Maine) -- Every parent worries about their kids getting healthy lunches in school cafeterias.

In Belfast, middle school parents don't have to worry because their students are growing their own healthy lunches, garden to table.

Sun-gold tomatoes, cucumbers, carrots, corn, just to name a few of the vegetables grown in the Troy Howard Middle School garden.

"It's harvest season and so we work really hard in September and October," said David Wessels, garden coordinator at the school. "We're really lucky to have a beautiful, big garden here and to be able to grow over a thousand pounds of food a year for our own cafeteria plus all the food we eat out in the garden which is probably another thousand pounds."

Wessels facilitates classes with seventh graders out in the garden year-round, organizing a gardening camp for students in the summer months.

"We have a heated greenhouse so we grow greens all through the winter, some of which go to the cafeteria and some of which we sell to the Belfast co-op," added Wessels.

The program is completely self-sustainable. It doesn't cost the city a penny.

The students grow the entire budget for the year out of the garden.

They're also responsible for composting in the school's cafeteria.

"The kids do everything," said Wessels. "[They] really have a hand in every aspect of the project."

"I just like being able to come outside and just pick stuff out of the garden and help with all that stuff," said seventh-grader Stephanie Resh. "It's really fun."

"Being able to work as a group with a bunch of people and have the experience to come outside and learn how to garden," said seventh-grader Mallory Morse, of her favorite part of working in the garden.

"I like to pick cucumbers," said seventh-grader Scarlett Peebles, of her favorite vegetable in this crop. "I hear that there's corn out here and one of my favorite vegetables is corn so I probably am excited to work with that [later this school year.]"

"I like to clean the carrots," added seventh-grader Maddie Mailloux. "The frost kind of makes the carrots sweeter I guess."

That's something new that Maddie and her classmates learned in the garden during this class.

Middle schoolers in Belfast don't have recess, so this is also their only time during the school day to be outside.

"I like being able to come out here just instead of sitting inside all day cause that's boring," said Mailloux.

A sentiment anyone who has been through the seventh grade can easily relate to. Another sentiment shared by all of the students is how much they enjoy spending time in the garden with their friends, knowing full well how lucky they are to have this garden program at their school.

"It's a place where you can hang out with your friends and do things," said Peebles.

"Just getting to spend time with our friends and actually doing other things besides being inside doing school work all day," added Morse.

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