Ethel A. Jacobsen Elementary School Wins ‘Best in New Jersey Farm to School Award’

Oct 04, 2017

From tomatoes, berries and beans to rain gauges and bird feeders to butterflies and ladybugs alight on the flowers, the garden on the Ethel A. Jacobsen Elementary School grounds in Surf City is a bounty of color, taste and hands-in-the-dirt education for the youngsters in the Long Beach Island Consolidated School District. This embrace of agriculture has earned E.J. this year’s “Best in New Jersey Farm to School Award,” presented by N.J. Secretary of Agriculture Douglas H. Fisher during the celebration of the seventh annual Jersey Fresh Farm to School Week assembly at the end of September.

The NJDA’s Division of Food and Nutrition, through its Farm to School Program, facilitates experiential opportunities to help students learn about how food grows and what it means to eat healthfully. Farm to School activities include tying the garden to classroom lessons, nutrition education, visits to local farms, incorporating local fruits and vegetables into the cafeteria meals and more.

“The object of serving healthy meals in school cafeterias is to improve student nutrition, provide healthy options and nutrition education opportunities that will last a lifetime, as well as support local farmers,” the NJDA explains.

“Additionally, the Farm to School Program includes school garden activities, which help teach students where food comes from by growing it themselves. Students benefit by learning the science behind farming and the nutritional values of fresh products, and they gain a greater understanding and appreciation of the environment. Educators can use school garden programs to teach any subject – math, science, language arts, health and nutrition, art or social studies. Farm to School programs promote and create a sense of community for all involved.”

“We applaud the Ethel Jacobsen School and the Long Beach Island School District not only for all the effort put into their Farm to School, but the enthusiasm with which they have approached it,” said Fisher. “From their excellent school garden to joining with the school food service and the community, the Jacobsen School exemplifies the spirit of this award. We also want to congratulate school nurse Bianca Aniski, who spearheaded the program.”

According to E.J. School Principal Frank Birney, “Bianca is doing an outstanding job of not only talking about what it takes to live a healthy life, but demonstrating a way to accomplish a healthy lifestyle by leading the students and their efforts in the school garden. Our children have the opportunity to eat healthy food now, and they also understand the process and work it takes to grow the food. It’s a great lesson for the students and the staff to be a part of. Bianca and the students are very deserving of the award.”

“I enjoy my work as a school nurse for the many opportunities to promote wellness, and the school garden is a great way to do that,” Aniski remarked. “I love the E.J. School because we are growing great minds, and we believe healthy students make better learners.

“We work together like a finely tuned instrument made of creative teachers, supportive staff members and a caring principal.”

The garden’s produce sometimes inspires grand events, such as last year’s “Kale-a-Palooza” and a Brussels sprouts cook-off the year before. Strawberries, cucumbers, beans, peppers, carrots, spinach, onions, lettuce, radishes, potatoes, herbs and more are also grown in the garden, which is tended throughout the entire year.

“We are thrilled to have New Jersey Secretary of Agriculture Douglas Fisher, Assemblywoman DiAnne Gove, and New Jersey Department of Agriculture representatives and Food Corps present Bianca Aniski and Ethel Jacobsen Elementary School staff and students with the ‘Best in New Jersey Farm to School Award,’” said district Superintendent Peter Kopack. “Our school community works together to promote a healthy lifestyle through so many successful teaching and learning experiences, and we greatly appreciate these efforts.”

To learn more about the E.J. garden, visit—J.K.-H.

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