Benefits of L.I.F.E. Shared by Community
This ground-breaking program has its roots in the Farm-to-School program started in 2002 by Henning Sehmsdorf and Elizabeth Simpson, whose nearby 50-acre biodynamic farm is an outdoor classroom that teaches students to be stewards of the earth as they learn about food “from seed to plate.”
A collaborative effort to expand the scope of this successful program began in 2005 between Lopez School District, Lopez Community Land Trust, Lopez Island Education Foundation, S&S Center for Sustainable Agriculture, Family Resource Center along with Washington State University, WSU Extension Office - San Juan County, and the Heller Family.
In a wellness policy adopted by the Lopez School Board, district policy members recognized that the gardens addressed requirements set forth in the new, state-mandated wellness policy to tackle childhood obesity and the diabetes epidemic. The Heller Family Foundation provided financial and program support, funding the addition of garden space, building unheated greenhouses, training school staff and faculty, and hiring a curriculum coordinator that works with students at all grade levels.
The new program was also supported by Antonia Demas of the Food Studies Institute, whose innovative curriculum educates students about nutrition and was used to help design the Lopez School's garden curriculum. She attended a week-long Summer Institute held on Lopez Island to present to educators, activists, food service personnel, school board members, wellness advocates and parents involved and interested in the L.I.F.E. Garden Program.
A Healthier Diet
In just a few years, the L.I.F.E. Garden Program has replaced the institutional diet of commodity foods served in the school cafeteria with locally raised meat and natural, healthy produce grown by the students on the public school campus. By linking to public policy and looking for sustainable, healthier alternatives to conventional approaches, the Lopez Island School’s farm education program shows what a public school can do to promote and support a culture of health and wellness among students, staff and the community. The benefits of L.I.F.E. begin in the schools and are designed to last a lifetime.
INVESTING in our children is sound public policy, resulting in increased potential for success individually and collectively that reduces the need for remedial funding.
IMPROVING in cognitive skills, behavior and conflict resolution are positive outcomes of programs that focus on nature and nutrition.
DEVELOPING partnerships through deep community involvement creates sustainability and increases our community’s ecological literacy.
COMMITTING to understand and implement sound, best, healthy practices and support the systems upon which life depends improves our quality of life.
INTEGRATING the teaching of practical life skills with the value and joy of meaningful work.