Seniors at Chattanooga Center for the Creative Arts are starting a community garden at the school as a result of the Cafeteria Conversations program organized by the city of Chattanooga's Department of Education, Arts and Culture.
For nearly a year, weekly lunchtime conversations have been held at the school regarding healthy food choices, community gardening, locally grown and organic foods and nutrition.
"When the idea of beginning a school garden came up, many of us seniors became excited," said CCA student Emi Brogdon.
Local farmers and the Chattanooga Market have agreed to donate supplies such as plants, seeds and shovels for the garden, which eliminated the need for a fundraiser the students had originally planned to organize.
"We want to make sure we have as many resources as possible," said Sarah Malone, CCA community service and parent coordinator.
She said preparations are ongoing to start their initial planting the beginning of April.
"Unfortunately the school year limits them to perennial herbs and salad greens," said Malone.
The idea is for students to be able to come out to the garden and pick greens or tomatoes to add to their salad, she said.
"The thought of not only having fresh, healthy options to add to our lunches, but also to inspire the younger kids to take a part in making healthier food choices has really gotten us motivated," said Brogdon. "We really want to help show kids the possible benefits of a school garden, and we also want to bring in more vegetarian-friendly alternatives."
Malone has also spoken with the school's environmental science teacher about planting a few apple trees in the courtyard, which students could enjoy for years to come.
"The seventh-grade science teacher has many students interested in being involved," said Malone. "Hopefully it will be an annual tradition to keep it going."
EAC communications director Melissa Turner said the department would like to have three to five additional schools participating in the program next year. Brainerd High School and Tyner Academy have both expressed an interest, she said.