BERKELEY HEIGHTS, NJ - After receiving the “Kids Dig In” garden award grant, four raised bed gardens were delivered to Mountain Park Elementary School in Berkeley Heights. With the help of parent volunteers, students and staff, the team kicked off and jumpstarted their new garden, which the students will maintain, harvest and eventually donate to local food banks.

At Mountain Park, Principal Jon Morisseau taught students how to load a wheelbarrow with dirt and joined in with transporting the soil. After learning this, the children were able to load the soil into wheelbarrows, till the soil and drop it off at their garden. Filling the raised beds with soil, students planted and watered the crops, finally cleaning up after the gardening was finished.

The students were giggling away as their principal, donned in his dress clothes, was digging in the soil for this incredible cause. On hand were also Mr. Quant and Mr. Percario, who assisted with the labor; this school-wide event required everyone’s support.

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The “Kids Dig In” grant program was created by the Union County Board of Chosen Freeholders, and was created to inspire children to give back to their communities while providing schools with educational opportunities for their students. Plants for pest management and pollinator-attracting plants are covered by the program, as well as fruits, vegetables, berries, nuts, herbs and spices.

Freeholder Chairman Sergio Granados, who initiated the program in 2017, said of the grant, “By growing fresh produce in their own school gardens, our youth gain powerful experiences with real-life issues involving agriculture and the environment, and they also become empowered to give back to the community.”

As the students continue to sustain their garden over the coming months, they will measure the outcome of their harvest, and 30% of that harvest will then be donated to food banks in the area.